Butler Junior Khyle Marshall was relaxing in his hotel room following the #6 Bulldogs 68-56 defeat of Bucknell when he caught a glimpse of the ending of the contest between Marquette and Davidson. Much like the rest of basketball nation, who watched the Wildcats blow a five-point lead with 41 seconds left in the game once Marquette Senior Vander Blue hit a layup with a little over a second left, Marshall knew what had happened.
“Davidson just laid an egg to be honest,” said Marshall.
“Big, big compliments go out to Marquette for not having any slight of doubt throughout the whole game. They needed to come back in the game, and they took full advantage of that. That’s what a talented team does. When they are down, they don’t get caught up in the ‘oh we might lose this game’. I bet they knew in their huddles they were going to come back.”
With the ending of perhaps the most exciting finish of the second round games in Lexington on Thursday, the 59-58 victory propelled #3 Marquette into a match-up with the Bulldogs on Saturday night. The two teams have faced off against each other once before this season, with Butler escaping the Maui Invitational semifinals with a dramatic 72-71 victory, so Butler Head Coach Brad Stevens and his staff have an idea what to expect come Saturday night.
“Teams are better at this time of year if they are still playing,” said Stevens.
“But the base is the same for both teams. In the way that they play, in the way that we play, it’s very relevant. They are better, and (Todd) Mayo didn’t play against us. They are getting a lot more consistent production out of every position, so they are better. But we are better too, and in that game Barlow and Kam Woods only combined for three minutes. That is sort of how the season progresses, and that’s why you hope to be playing four months later to see all those changes.”
The Golden Eagles are led by their Junior Vander Blue (14.3 ppg) and Junior forward Davante Gardner (11.5 ppg), and much of their success is due large in part to their success on the interior. In fact, multiple times Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams has mentioned that his team “can’t shoot threes”, and must rely on attacks to the basket or for role players like Jamil Wilson (9.6 ppg, 4.8 assists).
“I think I have played against more two-three zones against teams this past year than in my whole life,” said Wilson. “That’s a lot of teams strategies, just to pack it in and make them shoot. Somehow, someway, it’s either we get hot at the right time or we find gaps and get to the basket. Or we shoot it up and go get it from the basket. So I mean, you always have to have a counter play to someone’s action.”
The style of play described for Marquette is similar to how the Bulldogs defeated Bucknell on Thursday afternoon, when Butler had a cold-streak of shooting and only shot 3-17 from behind the arc. Butler is known for their own type of physical play on defense as well, so it will be interesting to see how the game is handled by the officials come Saturday night.
“It is the fine line you need to find,” said Butler Senior Andrew Smith when asked how you out-physical a physical team.
“It usually depends on the refs. Sometimes the refs are going to call it a little tighter, and sometimes they will call it a little looser. You need to find out the first few minutes how they are going to call the game.”
The contest between #6 Butler and #3 Marquette is slated to tip-off at 7:45.