Marquette, a team that has struggled all season from beyond the arc, picked the right time to start making three-pointers.
Getting hot late, as well as a left-handed layup with one second remaining from Vander Blue, proved to be the difference in Marquette’s 59-58 win over 14-seed Davidson in an East region matchup in Lexington.
Next up for the Golden Eagles is 6-seed Butler, which beat Bucknell in the first game of the day.
At one point in the contest Marquette was 1-of-10 from beyond the arc, and with Bob McKillop’s team keeping pace inside (final points in the paint tally: Davidson 24, Marquette 24) it looked as if an upset wasn’t just possible but probable.
But the Golden Eagles refused to wilt, and with both Blue (one three-pointer) and Jamil Wilson (two) knocking down perimeter shots in the final minute the stage was set for the first buzzer-beater of the 2013 NCAA tournament. On the game’s deciding play Blue received a ball screen at the top of the key, opening up a lane to the basket.
Blue finished with 16 points (5-of-15 FG), Wilson added 14 and forward Chris Otule tallied a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) for Marquette, which had some difficulty guarding Davidson forward Jake Cohen.
With his ability to score both inside and out the senior led all scorers with 20 points, but early issues from the foul line (Davidson missed seven of its first 14 free throws) resulted in the Southern Conference champions leaving points on the board.
Marquette’s victory sets up a rematch of a game played at the Maui Invitational back in November, a game won by Butler’s Rotnei Clarke as time expired. Obviously the Golden Eagles won’t suddenly turn into a team of three-point marksmen, so the key for them will be to shoot at a higher percentage inside of the arc than they did on Thursday.
Marquette shot 16-of-43 (37.2%), far below their percentage of 52.8% for the season entering Thursday. In the first meeting between Marquette and Butler the Golden Eagles made 57.1% of their two-pointers.
The recurring theme this time of year is “survive and advance,” but if Marquette is to continue to do so they’ll need to put forth better performances than they did against Davidson.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.