“Back to the old grind” is a summary of Marquette basketball under Buzz Williams. When the Golden Eagles are nearly pushed off the perch, Williams and Marquette find a way to make sure they are find a way to win and stay alive for the next game.
In Saturday night’s 74-72 surpassing of the gritty Butler Bulldogs, the Golden Eagles once again found a way as they had in the opening round with a 59-58 win over Davidson.
Davante Gardner complements Vander Blue well on the inside. His free throw shooting in the clutch helped Marquette advance to the Sweet 16 with a 74-72 win over Butler. Credit: Marquette Athletics and Maggie Casey
The first half was a nightmare for Williams who watched his Eagles go 1-of-12 from the floor with five turnovers over the last 8:30; yet, trailing the Bulldogs only 35-27 at halftime. Once again, up stepped senior guard Vander Blue.
He electrified the Golden Eagles in the first 5:01 of the second half as he scored 10 quick points and took over the game in getting Marquette within position at 46-44 at the first media time out. He had struggled as well in the first half with only three points, but wasn’t about to allow his team to walk out of Lexington, finished for the season.
“I got in the groove early in the second half, so I was able to get it doing with my teammates finding me taking shots I take every day,” said Blue, “Everybody was just pushing each other. Multiple times today we could have gave up and lot of the game. Just something about this group that we just relentless and we just want to win and we’re not ready to go home yet.”
Then, Blue, who finished with 29 points of 9-of-15 shooting in 34 minutes gave Marquette a huge upper hand in momentum as Williams dialed up more pressure all over the court to try to turn Butler over.
Blue shot through the paint with a lay up off a turnover at 7:25 to tie the game at 58. Then, he gave Marquette it’s first lead since 17-16 when he stepped in the passing lane and picked off another pass, this one for a dunk and a 60-58 advantage.
He may have saved his most heroic of the nine baskets after Andrew Smith made two free throws and put the Bulldogs ahead at 69-66 with 1:39. That was Blue’s last triple that tied it at 69.
“I don’t think it was a play,” said Blue of the shot, “I think Junior (Cadoughan) just thought he could beat his man and they came and helped him. I rose up, saw my man being flat. I rose up and shot it with no conscience because I knew we needed I had.”
The Golden Eagles made five of six free throws down the stretch although Butler’s Clarke missed a possible game-clenching triple one possession before Andrew Smith missed an off-balance three at the buzzer.
“That’s just another Marquette game,” said Williams of a team that fits the Warrior mantra perfectly, “We’re not good enough to blow anybody out. We’re just good enough to get blown out. And if we can turn it into a fight and make it ugly, then it probably trends towards helping us the most.”
- Ken Cross
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