Marquette edges Butler to reach Sweet 16
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- If someone filmed a commercial to summarize Marquette's basketball team, it probably would look just like the game Saturday night: tension from start to finish, a furious comeback in the second half, uncertainty until the very last moment and ultimately a celebration.
Marquette did all of that, using every second to close out a 74-72 win over Butler and advance to the Sweet 16. The Golden Eagles will face Sunday night's Illinois-Miami winner Thursday in the East Regional in Washington.
The lead changed hands for most of the second half after Marquette trailed by eight at intermission. The Golden Eagles seemed to take momentum when Vander Blue (29 points) tied it on a corner three-pointer with 1:25 left. They seemed to have it wrapped up when they went up 74-70 on Davante Gardner's two free throws with four seconds left before committing a goaltending violation and a turnover.
They had to play two more seconds of good defense and then hold their breath as Andrew Smith's long, off-balance fling at the buzzer missed.
"That's just another Marquette game,'' coach Buzz Williams said.
Junior Cadougan, the senior point guard who withstood a chewing-out from Williams at halftime, led a stellar defensive effort against Rotnei Clarke (24 points, but none in the final 15 minutes).
"Every game we play in is going to be a grind-out, hard boxing match from the start to the end,'' Cadougan said.
That evidently is especially true against Butler. The teams seem to be brewing an instant rivalry before becoming partners in the new Big East next season. They played in Maui Nov. 19, with Clarke hitting a shot at the buzzer for a 72-71 win that was cemented in memories because ESPN kept showing it in a promotional spot.
"The commercial was airing all year, so any time we were watching a game, we saw him sink that shot,'' said Trent Lockett, who had 13 points Saturday night. "I'd much rather win a game this time of year.''
Marquette (25-8) seemed cooked against Davidson on Thursday but capitalized on a turnover and won by a point on a last-second drive by Blue.
"We had a lot of those games this year,'' Blue said. About the latest one, he added, "There were multiple times when we could have gave up and lost the game, but there's just something about this group. We're just relentless.''