Marquette Ends Butler’s NCAA Bid

Marquette Ends Butler’s NCAA Bid
Senior Rotnei Clarke (Photo by John Fetcho)

LEXINGTON, KY. -- It came down to a final shot for the second straight meeting, but this time Marquette survived with a 74-72 victory over Butler in the third round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at Rupp Arena on Saturday, March 23.  The outcome left the Bulldogs with a 27-9 final record.

Marquette (25-8) had to withstand two potential game-winning attempts by the Bulldogs in the closing seconds to advance to the Sweet 16.  The first came with just five seconds remaining when senior Rotnei Clarke missed a three-point attempt that would have given Butler a 73-72 lead.

Butler had to foul immediately, and Marquette's Davante Gardner hit a pair of three throws with four seconds left to give the Golden Eagles a four-point advantage, 74-70.  The Bulldogs quickly cut that lead in half, when Emerson Kampen threw a full-court pass to senior Andrew Smith, who scored on a lay-up with 0:02.9 left.

The Golden Eagles then turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds attempt, giving Butler a final chance to win the game.  But that attempt came up short when Smith missed a three-point shot at the buzzer.

Back on Nov. 19, Clarke nailed a three-point field goal at the buzzer to give Butler a 72-71 victory over Marquette in the first round of the Maui Invitational.

The dramatic ending was consistent with a hard-fought contest that was tied seven times and featured 16 lead changes.  The Bulldogs led by as many as 10 points in the first half and carried an eight-point lead to the locker room at halftime.  Marquette's biggest lead came on Gardner's free throws with four seconds left.

"The difference in the game was the level of pressure that (Marquette) put on us in the second half," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game.  "Certainly the shots they made; they had a few that I didn't think were going in and the bounced in and they had a frew that were probably better looks that didn't go in.  It's just kind of the way the game works."

"Our guys gave a great effort on both ends of the floor.  Our guys played their hearts out, and I told them they had nothing to be ashamed about."

Butler's bid to knock off the No. 3-seeded Golden Eagles was fueled by strong performances from Clarke and Smith.  Clarke, playing in just his second NCAA Tournament game, scored 18 points in the first half to give Butler the early advantage.  He finished with a team-high 24 points, including five three-point field goals.

Clarke gave Butler its biggest lead at 33-23 with a jumper with 3:26 left in the opening period.

Smith, playing in his 11th NCAA game, scored 17 points and led both teams with eight rebounds.  He finished fifth on Butler's all-time list for NCAA Tournament scoring with 73 points, and he set a Butler NCAA Tournament record with 16 rebounds in Butler's opening round victory over Bucknell.

Marquette's Vander Blue led all scorers in the game with 29 points, while teammates Trent Lockett and Jamil Wilson each added 13.

Butler finished the game with 11 three-point field goals, but the Golden Eagles offset the long-range assault by hitting 23 of 27 free throw attempts.

The Bulldogs' 27 wins this season are tied for the fifth-highest single season win total in Butler basketball history.  Butler seniors Smith, Kampen and Chase Stigall finished their four seasons at Butler with 110 wins, the third-highest senior class total in Butler history.