Vander Blue's late shot helps Marquette rally past Davidson
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Marquette's players seemed happy and maybe a little relieved. It was hard to tell. On the other hand, it was very obvious how Davidson's players felt.
"You can tell by our faces we're not too happy about it," said Jake Cohen, the game's high scorer. "It's just devastating."
That sums up the NCAA Tournament, at least the early rounds. The wins are fine, but the losses hit like a ton of bricks. Marquette, which did everything right to overcome a seven-point deficit in the final 1:49 and a four-point hole in the last 20 seconds for a 59-58 victory Thursday, gets to face Butler Saturday in the East Regional.
Davidson, which saw it slip away when Vander Blue dribbled around and banked in a lefthanded layup over Cohen with one second left, has to face bitter reality.
"Our guys gave us a sensational season, and they emptied their tank today," said coach Bob McKillop, who played for Chaminade High and Hofstra before coaching Holy Trinity and Long Island Lutheran.
It nearly was a perfect day for the 14th-seeded Southern Conference team against one of the Big East's regular-season champions. Marquette (24-8) had made only one three-point shot all game and seemed out of hope with a little over a minute and a half left. Then everything went right for the No. 3 seed.
In a 52-second span, from 1:03 to 0:11 left, Jamil Wilson sank two three-pointers and Blue made one to make it a one-point game.
"I guess Jamil and I are [each] one of the leaders on the team," Blue said. "We had to take the shot."
Marquette's defense, and some luck, came into play next. The defense forced De'Mon Brooks into throwing the inbounds pass too long for point guard Nik Cochran, and the ball went out of bounds down the left sideline. "I over-led him just a little bit," Brooks said.
Luck took over when the officials took a long look at a replay to determine how much time was left -- 6.7 seconds, it turned out -- and allowed the Golden Eagles to set up a play when they had no timeouts left.
"It definitely helped," winning coach Buzz Williams said. "I would say emotionally it helped more than strategically."
McKillop, when he was asked about it, said, "Unfair advantage. We certainly knew they didn't have a timeout. That's why we didn't call one when they made that [last] three. There's not much we can do about that."
The Wildcats (26-8) looked helpless when, after that non-timeout, Marquette executed perfectly. Blue got the ball and drove to the basket, in a play almost exactly like the one he made to beat St. John's in overtime in the regular-season finale.
"I got switched and he got by me," Cohen said. "Hindsight is 20/20. But he made a good play and made a big shot."
A desperation pass failed, making this a devastating postseason finale for Davidson. Even Marquette felt bad.
"I have the utmost respect for coach McKillop. You don't win 17 games in a row exclusively based on you having the best players," Williams said, referring to the streak with which Davidson entered the game. "Consistency is one of the greatest signs of toughness, and those guys are extremely tough from the head coach down."
This time, though, it was the loss that was toughest of all.