Marquette has vivid memory of Clarke buzzer-beater

Marquette has had success this year by focusing on each game possession-by-possession. The Golden Eagles haven’t been able to have a long-term memory this season. They would not have had the success they did if that was the case.

But there’s always been one play that has been stuck in the back of their mind.

Rotnei Clarke’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer in November at the Maui Invitational has been on commercials advertising the “Watch ESPN” app all season long. That has served as more of a reminder to the Golden Eagles about that defeat.

“That’s definitely my least favorite commercial throughout the year because it always brings you back to that moment where that shot went in,” senior guard Trent Lockett said.

While Clarke and his teammates say that shot was a long time ago and they forgot about it quickly, the Golden Eagles have done just the opposite.

“It’s not the loss, it’s the way we lost,” junior guard Vander Blue said. “It’s a one-in-a-million shot he made.”

Clarke’s shot may have different meanings to both teams, but on Friday the Golden Eagles agreed with Butler on something else: both teams have changed since their first meeting in November.

A glaring improvement since its first game against Butler is Marquette’s improvement from its supporting cast. Blue and forward Davante Gardner were already looking like the Golden Eagles’ go-to scorers, but players such as Lockett and center Chris Otule have both improved since then.

Against Davidson in Marquette’s 59-58 second round win, those players had a crucial part in the victory. Lockett and Otule had 11 rebounds each, with the latter adding 11 points.

Head coach Buzz Williams doesn’t think his team can be victorious without them playing well, just like against Davidson.

“We wouldn’t have won last night without Chris having 11 and 11. We wouldn’t have without Trent having 11 rebounds,” Williams said. “Everybody is going to talk about Vander’s shot and Jamil (Wilson)’s shot. I concur with that. It’s the things that led up to those shots (that helped us win).”

Blue has been Marquette’s leading scorer most of this season, and has been fairly consistent in doing so. He said the Golden Eagles have become more comfortable in their specific assignments and responsibilities since November.

“Everybody’s much more comfortable in their roles. They know what we need from them to win every day, and we’ve been in tough games,” Blue said. “We’ve been in every type of environment you can imagine and that can only help us. It really helped us last night.”

Williams specifically noted the improvement of Wilson, who had his worst game of the season against Butler. He played just 14 minutes without scoring, and committed more fouls than he grabbed rebounds.

That was the last game Wilson started, and it is no coincidence that he has played well in his new bench role.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, Jamil should start,’” Williams said. “You should go back to the last game he started and watch that tape, because he got whipped.”

In November, defense was optional down the stretch for both Butler and Marquette. Both teams noted their own respective improvements defensively on Friday afternoon. Each of them scored 41 points in the second half in Maui.

Butler center Andrew Smith and head coach Brad Stevens both said the Bulldogs have become more acclimated to their defensive system. Marquette has become a very stout defensive team itself, using its athleticism and size to its advantage more and more as the season has progressed.

Three consecutive stops on defense is a “turkey,” and three consecutive scores on offense is “heat.” Williams said that was his team’s highest “heat game of the season.” Offensively the Golden Eagles turned it on down the stretch in that game.

Unfortunately, Butler did, too.

One reason the Bulldogs had so much success was their success in the post against Marquette. In the second half of the game, Roosevelt Jones and Khyle Marshall – Butler’s two starting forwards – combined with Smith to score 29 points in the second half alone.

“Their frontcourt abused us,” Williams said. “They just whipped us, and they won the game because of (Jones, Marshall, and Smith) just doing work on our guys.”

Marquette’s two big men, Otule and Gardner, remember that game well. The duo played a combined 28 minutes, and while Gardner score 12 points and had seven rebounds was limited because of foul trouble.

Otule is prepared for the challenge this time, especially of defending Smith, who is averaging 11.1 points and six rebounds this season, and had 14 and 16 in Butler’s game against Bucknell on Thursday.

“You’ve got to take up all the space,” the 6-foot-11 Otule said. “All their bigs are really physical and the main thing we have to focus on is trying to defend without fouling and try to take up their space and make them foul and get them in foul trouble, so hopefully we can stay out of foul trouble.”

While a lot is different for Marquette and strategies change, they will never forget that feeling of defeat after Clarke’s miracle 3-pointer.

“To lose on that type of shot, in that type of environment at that type of tournament, you don’t know what to feel at that moment,” sophomore Derrick Wilson, who was defending Clarke on that shot, said. “When he hits that shot, there was nothing that you could really do. You couldn’t have done anything better on that play. It is one of those things that happen and I didn’t know how to feel after it.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Analysis, Home


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: