Rapid Reaction: Marquette 74, Butler 72

March, 23, 2013
3/23/13
11:18
PM ET
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Marquette Golden Eagles and Butler Bulldogs have played on the edge throughout the season.

The Golden Eagles won games against St. John’s and Davidson that maybe they shouldn't have. Butler was blessed with late-game magic against Marquette, Indiana and Gonzaga.

So, it made total sense for this Round of 32 game to come down to the final possessions.

And they couldn’t have been handled more poorly.

Butler was down two points with 5.5 seconds remaining and had a shot to get to the rim, where the Bulldogs had been effective. Instead, Rotnei Clarke chucked a deep, uncontested 3-pointer that barely grazed the net.

Davante Gardner converted two free throws for a four-point lead. But Butler didn’t wilt. The Bulldogs got a goaltending goal as Andrew Smith converted with 3.2 seconds left to pull to within two.

All Marquette had to do was put the ball inbounds. But it couldn’t. The turnover with 2.4 seconds left gave the ball back to Butler.

Butler could have gone to Smith inside -- the look was initially for a 3-pointer but Clarke couldn’t get open. The ball went to Smith, who stumbled, turned his ankle and missed a 3-pointer.

Marquette survived and advanced in much the same manner the Bulldogs had in this tournament.

Turning point: Butler had been inching ahead but then turned it over on three straight possessions. That stretch allowed Marquette to take a lead. The lead wouldn’t last long but it certainly energized the Golden Eagles for the final seven minutes.

Key player: Vander Blue has had quite a month. He hit the winning shots against St. John’s and Davidson. He finished with 29 points to lead the Golden Eagles and made critical shots throughout the game.

Key stat: Clarke scored 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-12 on 3s. But he needed to shoot a higher percentage or at least make one more for the Bulldogs.

What’s next: Marquette moves on to the Sweet 16 yet again. The Golden Eagles will play the winner of the Miami-Illinois game in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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