Lexington, KY – Two wins by a combined three points has Marquette in the Sweet 16.
It's just the way the scrappy and resilient third-seeded Golden Eagles like it.
Vander Blue netted 29 points, including a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game late, and Jamil Wilson sunk two go-ahead free throws with 47.7 seconds remaining to lift Marquette to a 74-72 win over sixth-seeded Butler in the third round of the NCAA Tournament between two future foes in the new Big East Conference.
"I know everybody in our team, we weren't ready to go home," Blue said. "We had two close games, we had a lot of those this year. What we went through earlier this year prepared us for this weekend."
With his team down by two in a back-and-forth tussle down the stretch, Rotnei Clarke, who had 18 of his 24 points in the first half and nailed a game- winning trey at the buzzer against Marquette (25-8) in the Maui Invitational earlier in November, airballed a long pull-up 3-point attempt from the left wing with 5.5 ticks on the clock.
Davante Gardner hit two free throws to up the Marquette advantage to 74-70 with 4.7 seconds remaining, but a fantastic inbounds pass by Emerson Kampen led to a quick Andrew Smith layup to keep Butler (28-9) in the game with 3.2 seconds on the clock.
Blue floated the ensuing inbounds pass a bit too far along the right sideline and off the fingertips of Wilson to give the ball right back to the Bulldogs. Smith's desperation trey at the buzzer ricocheted sharply off the glass to allow the Golden Eagles to advance to their third straight Sweet 16.
"Our guys gave great effort on both ends of the floor. Our guys played their hearts out. I told them they had nothing to be ashamed about," Butler head coach Brad Stevens said.
The Golden Eagles will play the winner of Sunday's matchup between Miami and Illinois, on Thursday in Washington, D.C.
Blue's last second coast-to-coast left-handed layup helped Marquette rally from a five-point deficit in the final 41 seconds against 14th-seeded Davidson in the second round.
Wilson and Trent Lockett had 13 points apiece for the Golden Eagles, who stormed back from a 10-point first-half hole.
Clarke went off over the first 20 minutes on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, but was stifled in the second half. He was limited to just six points of 2-of-8 from the floor.
Smith finished with 17 points for Butler, which reached the national championship game in 2010 and '11, but hasn't made it past the first weekend since. The Bulldogs did not make the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
Clarke gave his head coach a stare of confidence after scoring 10 straight Butler points late in the opening stanza. He hit three straight free throws before hitting a pull-up 3-pointer a couple of possessions later. He then got another jumper to fall to make it 33-23 before getting a friendly roll from the rim on a floater in the paint to put the Bulldogs up 35-27 with 2:02 left in the half. The score was the same entering the break.
Marquette had more turnovers (eight) had field goals made (seven) in the first half.
Blue, though, deposited 19 second-half points to lead Marquette back.
Clarke's pull-up three on a delayed fast break made the spread 41-32, but the Golden Eagles used a 12-5 run to get back into it. Blue made a jumper, got into the passing lane for a steal and layup, and nailed a triple to cap the burst and pull Marquette within 46-44 with 15:24 left.
A bit later, back-to-back Marquette steals by Wilson and Blue led to a pair of Blue fast break buckets for the team's first lead, 60-58, since the midway point of the first half. There was still 7:06 left to play.
Five more minutes elapsed before Kameron Woods made a short baseline jumper and Smith nailed a pair of free throws for a 69-66 Butler margin. Blue, though, answered with a right-corner three to knot the tilt with 1:23 left.
After Smith made a layup an Barlow misfired from beyond the arc, Woods committed an over-the-back foul on an offensive rebound attempt, and Wilson proceeded to make the go-ahead free throws.
Marquette shot 59.3 percent (16-of-27) in the second half ... Butler shot 46 percent from 3-point range (11-of-24) ... There were seven ties and 16 lead changes.