LEXINGTON, Ky – Just luck?
Butler begged to differ.
Indeed Rotnei Clarke’s long three-point heave found the bottom of the net to give the Bulldogs a win over Marquette on November 19th at the Maui Classic, but Brad Stevens’ team wanted to dispute Golden Eagles’ center Chris Odule’s claim that the shot was pure luck.
“It was a lucky shot,” Odule said on Friday when talking about the Maui Classic match-up between Butler and Marquette. Saturday would prove him either right or wrong.
In the team’s second game of the season against each other in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs proved to be up for the challenge against the third-seeded Eagles, but this time it was Marquette who came out on top.
Another bizarre ending this time went the Golden Eagles way as they beat the Bulldogs 74-72 Saturday night at Rupp Arena. The Bulldogs nearly made up a four-point deficit in 4.7 seconds thanks to an Andrew Smith layup and a turnover by Marquette on the ensuing inbounds pass.
But Smith’s three-pointer in the final second was off the mark as the Bulldogs season comes to an end in the round of 32.
Brad Stevens’ team finishes their only season in the Atlantic 10 conference 27-9 and will enter the Big East Conference starting next season.
In their final games in a Butler uniform Clarke finished with a game-high 24 points with Smith contributed 17 points and a team-high 8 rebounds.
Clarke was out to prove that his November shot was no fluke in the first half when he enjoyed perhaps his best 20 minutes of basketball in a Butler uniform. He was hitting shots from all over the court and scored 18 first half points.
His jumper with 2:07 to go in the first half would end the scoring binge as Butler took a 35-27 lead into the half.
The senior guard appeared on his way to breaking things open early in the second half when his three-pointer put the Bulldogs up by nine. But Marquette then made their move and when Vander Blue got a transition dunk the Eagles had their first lead since the second half 60-58 with 7:14 to play.
Both teams traded the leads after that with Butler grabbing a three-point advantage with 1:39 left on a pair of Smith free throws-and that’s when the drama began. Ten seconds later Vander Blue tied the game with a three-pointer and grabbed the lead with 48 seconds to go on a pair of Jamil Wilson free throws after a scoreless Butler possession.
Davante Gardner added one more free throw for Marquette with 22 seconds left but a second miss allowed Butler a chance to tie it. Roosevelt Jones drew a foul to get to the line and he hit his first attempt and missed the second and Butler got the rebound. Clarke got a shot attempt to tie the game but it was off the mark and the Golden Eagles got the rebound.
Gardner hit a pair of free throws with 4.7 left and appeared to put the game away, but Butler had one more push. A cross-court pass by Emerson Kampen found the hands of Smith who put up the quick layup and had it blocked by Jamil Wilson, but the referees ruled it goaltending so the Bulldogs pulled within two.
On the ensuing inbounds pass, Blue tried to find Wilson on the sidelines but his pass was off the mark and went out of bounds, giving Butler 2.9 seconds to get off a game-tying shot. With Clarke heavily guarded, Jones looked for Smith at the top of the key who caught the pass yet couldn’t get a good look and forced up a one-handed lob that was off the mark.