Rushed Reactions: #3 Marquette 74, #6 Butler 72Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 2013
I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Saturday’s Third Round game between #3 Marquette and #6 Butler. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Survive and Advance — In a pod full of mid-majors with Cinderella history, it was the Big East power who emerged at the end of the day, but not before being pushed to its limits. This was more of a see-saw affair than Marquette’s great escape against Davidson, and they seemed to take control of the game mid-way through the second half. But Butler was resilient, and the Golden Eagles almost threw away the win, just as Davidson did on Thursday, with an errant inbounds pass with three seconds left and a two-point lead. No doubt, memories of Marquette’s fateful loss to Butler on a buzzer beater in Maui creeped into the minds of Marquette fans. But a well-executed defensive scheme on the final possession resulted in an ugly three-point attempt from Andrew Smith that was well off the mark. After the game, Buzz Williams refused to explain his defensive setup, explaining that given all the close games Marquette has played — and is likely to play again — he wasn’t about to reveal state secrets.
- Butler Couldn’t Escape the Turnover Trap — The biggest advantage of Butler’s tournament draw is that none of the three teams in its pod is very good at forcing turnovers. A major reason that Butler went 0-4 vs St. Louis and VCU this year was its poor ball control. Through three halves of basketball this week, Butler committed just 10 turnovers, and in the first half tonight, Marquette had zero fast break points — a big reason the Bulldogs entered intermission with an 8-point lead. But Marquette stepped up the pressure in the second half tonight, and Butler started to crack. They coughed up the ball 10 times after halftime, allowing Marquette to score eight fast-break points and 15 total off turnovers.
- Rotnei Clarke Faded Down the Stretch — Clarke had a tremendous first half, showing off not just his dead-eye three-point shot, but also his underrated ability to score inside the arc, with an array of pull-up jumpers, runners, and drives to the rim. But the cooling of his hot hand in the second half deprived Butler of a reliable scoring option. After starting off 7-of-10, Clarke made just one of his last seven shots. With Roosevelt Jones struggling to a 3-of-11 performance, Butler was left with few scoring options. They labored to score, and while they managed to keep scraping points together, in part due to Andrew Smith’s yeoman effort underneath, they couldn’t scratch out enough.
Star of the Game: Vander Blue had a tough act to follow, after his late-game heroics gave the Golden Eagles a last-second win over Davidson in the Second Round. But he more than came through, putting the team on his back and carrying them to a win with an outstanding performance at both ends of the floor. Blue finished with 29 points on just 15 shots and grabbed four steals. Two of those swipes came on crucial back-to-back possessions late in the game, both of which Blue converted into easy fast break points, turning a 2-point deficit into a 2-point lead in 60 seconds. Blue had so worked himself to exhaustion that after those two plays that his coach had to give him a short rest. But he had enough energy after coming back to hit the biggest shot of the game — a corner three-pointer with 1:26 to play that tied the game at 69.
Quotable: “Oh, because it’s TV? And there’s money involved?” — Marquette coach Buzz Williams, rhetorically questioning why his team’s Sweet Sixteen game time had not yet been announced
Sights & Sounds: A debate broke out on press row about whether a gray-haired gentlemen sitting a few rows behind us was Sandy Koufax, the legendary Dodgers pitcher who goes to the Final Four every year. Finally, the consensus emerged — yes, the greatest left-hander in baseball history was taking in one of the best games of the Tournament thus far.
Wildcard: Marquette tends to allow teams to beat them from deep, so Butler’s three-point shooting, which can be streaky, was likely to be a key tonight. The Bulldogs answered the call, knocking down 11-of-24 threes, but it proved not to be enough.
What’s Next? Marquette will try to survive and advance once more in the Sweet Sixteen where they will face the winner of tomorrow’s Miami-Illinois game.