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Marquette overcomes Butler to advance

The SportsXchange

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Davante Gardner hit two free throws with 4.7 seconds left and third-seeded Marquette held on to beat No. 6 seed Butler 74-72 in the East Regional of the NCAA tournament on Saturday night.

Gardner's two free throws pushed the Golden Eagles' lead to 74-70, but a Butler full-court pass to Andrew Smith went for two points when Marquette was called for goaltending.

On the ensuing inbounds play, Marquette (25-8) threw the ball out of bounds and allowed Butler a final shot with 2.4 seconds to play. A last-resort inbounds pass to Smith was wild, and he could not recover to get off a good attempt. His shot-put heave from 22 feet screamed off the backboard.

Vander Blue led Marquette with 29 points, 19 of which came in the second half. His 3-pointer with 1:21 to play tied the score at 69. When Jamil Wilson hit two free throws with 47.7 seconds to play, the Golden Eagles would not trail again.

Gardner hit one of two from the line with 22.9 seconds left, and Butler's Roosevelt Jones sank one of two with 14.7 remaining to make it 72-70.

"The last 30 seconds or so felt like an eternity," Wilson said. "It felt like the clock was stopping every two seconds. I kept thinking, 'Man, I want this to be over. Man, I want this to be over.'"

Rotnei Clarke had 18 points in the first half as Butler opened a 35-27 lead.

Clarke, a senior playing in his first year at Butler (27-9) after transferring from Arkansas, was 6 of 9 from the floor before halftime and 3 of 6 from 3-point range.

Marquette couldn't stop Clarke from getting off his shot. His release is one of the quickest in the game and it showed in the first half.

But Clarke fell on his wrist early in the second half and did not score in the final 15 minutes. He finished with 24 points.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams said the Golden Eagles switched their defense on Clarke in the second half but declined to say how.

"If we can turn it into a fight and make it ugly, then it probably trends toward it helps us the most," Williams said. "(Clarke) made six shots in the first half, had 50 percent of their points. As good a shooter as he is, you kind of have to go all in in the second half and see if those other guys can beat you, and they almost did. I do think that what you guys saw epitomizes, is a microcosm of our culture."

Butler held a comfortable lead throughout much of the first half and led by as many as nine points in the second at 41-32 with 16:13 to play.

The Golden Eagles took their first lead of the second half at 60-58 with about seven minutes to play on a Blue basket.

Butler controlled much of the first half after a bit of a slow start. The Golden Eagles led 15-12 with 13:04 to go in the first half, but Butler answered with a 9-2 run to take a 21-17 lead with 9:49 to go. On Clarke's back, the Bulldogs took their biggest lead at 33-23 with 3:26 to go until halftime.

Smith had all 17 of his points in the second half for Butler and served as the Bulldogs' lifeblood when Clarke was shut down. Smith only took one shot in the first half and finished 5 of 8 from the floor. He also had eight rebounds.

With his 29 points, Blue helped the Golden Eagles avenge a 72-71 loss to Butler on Nov. 19 in the Maui Invitational. In that game, Clarke hit a 30-foot runner as time expired to give the Bulldogs the win.

Blue had 50 points in two games against the Bulldogs this season.

"That's pretty unique," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "Not many guys have gotten 50 against Butler in two games. You know, again, he made big shots."

Williams said he felt that life gives you a test over and over until you pass it. On Saturday, Marquette was able to pass the last-second test against Butler.

The next test is one the Golden Eagles have had each of the last two seasons. Williams said he's hoping they pass it the third time around.

"Now what we've got to figure out is, can we pass the Sweet 16 test that we've been given the last two years? And so we'll find that out over the next four, five days," he said.

NOTES: Marquette has won six of its last seven games. In those six wins, the Golden Eagles' average margin of victory is 3.7 points. ... The last time Marquette played in three straight Sweet 16s was from 1972 to 1974. ... Despite the loss, Butler is 11-3 in its past three NCAA tournaments dating to 2010. The Bulldogs were national runners-up in 2010 and 2011 before missing the field of 68 in 2012. ... Butler finished its season with 27 wins for the sixth time in school history. Stevens coached four of those teams.
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