Marquette

Marquette Sweet 16-bound after holding off Butler in tournament’s best game

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Around this time last season, Marquette was on its way to the Sweet 16 with Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder and his right-hand man, Darius Johnson-Odom. Three different Marquette assistants sat on the sidelines and guard Vander Blue was a solid producer on a solid Big East team.

One year later, Crowder and Johnson-Odom are gone. Those three Marquette assistants have moved on. And perhaps most importantly Vander Blue is at the center of a Golden Eagle run that once again finds them in the Sweet 16 after a 74-72 win over No. 6-seed Butler at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Saturday night.

After two Davante Gardner free throws with four seconds left to play gave Marquette a four-point lead, 74-70, Butler launched an inbounds pass the length of the court where center Andrew Smith grabbed it and laid it in for two. That pulled the game within one possession, 74-72. A botched inbounds play by Marquette and perhaps a missed foul call allowed the ball to go out of bounds with two seconds remaining, giving Butler one final opportunity to tie.

The subsequent pass was thrown to Smith at the top of the key, but he stumbled and missed a three-pointer that would have given Butler the win.

Blue had 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including a big three-pointer from the right corner with 1:29 to play that tied the game at 69. His major performance followed a game-saving layup in the Round of 64 that allowed Marquette to survive and advance past Davidson.

With all the change that has come to this program over the past year, there has remained one constant: head coach Buzz Williams. Williams did not win Big East Coach of the Year, but he very well could have. Considering the assets that he lost, the development of the players he had returning, and the production that he has been able to help them unlock, this Marquette run to the Sweet 16 is remarkable.

Marquette now moves on to play the winner of Miami-Illinois for a chance to punch its ticket to the Elite Eight.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

WATCH LIVE: James Madison battles UNC-Wilmington on NBCSN

James Madison guard Shakir Brown, left, drives past Hofstra forward Denton Koon (12) during the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Harrisonburg, Va., Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)
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Two of the top teams in the CAA battle on Saturday afternoon as James Madison travels to UNC-Wilmington. You can catch this matchup live on NBCSN at 3 p.m. EST.

UNC-Wilmington (19-5, 11-2) is currently the class of the conference as they hold a two-game lead over James Madison, William & Mary and Hofstra. The Seahawks have won 10 consecutive games and they’re led by guard Chris Flemmings, who is averaging 16.6 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game.

James Madison (19-7, 9-4) has won three consecutive games as they try to make up ground on UNC-Wilmington. Guard Ron Curry leads the Dukes in points (16.8 ppg) and assists (3.9 apg) as he’s having a very solid season.

These two teams played on Jan. 28 with UNC-Wilmington winning 78-73 on the road.

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

VIDEO: Winthrop’s Keon Johnson goes coast-to-coast for buzzer-beater

Winthrop's Keon Johnson (5) shoots a layup while defended by Coastal Carolina's Warren Gillis during the first half of the Big South Conference Championship college basketball game Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Conway, S.C. Coastal Carolina won 81-70. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
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Winthop earned a Big South road win at Radford on Saturday afternoon as junior guard Keon Johnson raced coast-to-coast and buried the game-winner at the buzzer.

The 5-foot-7 Johnson erupted for 32 points in the win and he’s been one of the most potent mid-major scorers in the country this season. The win moves Winthrop to 18-7 on the season and their 10-4 mark in the Big South ties them with UNC Asheville atop the conference standings.

(H/T: LiveonASN)