Vander Blue remembers Rotnei Clarke’s robbery.
Clarke’s miracle buzzer-beater that knocked the Golden Eagles out of the winners bracket of the Maui Invitational still stings.
“It’s not the loss, it’s the way we lost,” Blue said. “It’s a one-in-a-million shot he made.”
Yesterday, Buzz Williams said he and his team had seen the shot over and over again on commercials for ESPN. That’s only helped the memory stay fresh in the mind of players like Trent Lockett.
“That’s definitely my least favorite commercial throughout the year because it always brings you back to that moment where that shot went in,” Lockett said. “But they played a great game. Looking back at the tape, that was a really good game and (I’m) looking forward to the game tomorrow.”
Tomorrow in the Round of 32, Marquette will get a chance at redemption that many teams don’t in the same season; a rematch with the Bulldogs with the stakes much, much higher.
Derrick Wilson was guarding Clarke’s shot and remembers it just as clearly. The sophomore guard said the game isn’t specifically about revenge, however.
“We just came here focused to play,” Wilson said. “The whole tournament is about winning. I think that’s what we are more focused on, not so much about revenge or it’s a time to get back at them. We came here and have to win.”
Clarke himself admitted that he and the Bulldogs have definitely “moved past” the shot and the win. Both teams have played a lot of games since the mid-November tournament.
Butler is 27-8 (11-5) after losing two of its last four regular season games, and falling to St. Louis in the Atlantic 10 semifinals.
The Bulldogs had their own struggles with 11th-seeded Bucknell yesterday. Butler led 43-42 with just 6:56 left to play, but went on to hit 18 of its next 20 free throws to pull away for the 68-56 win.
Williams said he believes both teams have improved since the Maui matchup and tomorrows game could look quite different.
“(Butler) didn’t have any canceled games due to weather, and they advanced in their conference tournament so they’ve played a few more games than we have,” Williams said. “I think schematically overall there’s a lot of similarities, but they’ve made tweaks, they’ve made adjustments.
“So I think they’re different. Our team is different. We didn’t know who we were at Maui, and I think that we know who we are, just like every other team that’s still playing, but I think we’ve improved since Maui as well.”
Butler finalized plans to join the new Big East conference earlier this week, meaning tomorrow will provide a preview of a future conference rivalry. Blue said the game means a lot for both sides in that regard.
“It’s kind of rare (to play) them in Maui and then end up playing them again in the (NCAA) Tournament,” Blue said. “It’s going to be good for the conference next year to have a little juice, a little hatred towards somebody, somebody new (instead) of Wisconsin and teams like that.”
“We don’t want to think too far ahead about next year or where we’re going to be next year; we want to worry about tomorrow and make sure we win that game.”
While the memory of Clarke’s shot draws a lot of attention to Butler’s three-point shooting, Williams said Marquette must contain the Bulldogs’ big men.
“Their frontcourt abused us,” Williams said. “They just whipped us, and they won the game because of (Roosevelt Jones, Khyle Marshall and Andrew Smith) just doing work on our guys.”
“And so the thing that I’m concerned with now is 40 percent of their missed shots they get an offensive rebound. When you give them extra possessions on the glass, it’s a back-breaker for your team because they’re so efficient in what they do. You can’t give them extra possessions.”
Tip off is set for tomorrow night at 6:45 central time, right after a game in the Midwest bracket between top-seeded Louisville and Colorado State. Marquette will be playing for its third straight Sweet 16 appearance, while the Bulldogs hope to win their 12th NCAA Tournament game in their last 14 attempts.