Marquette beats Butler in NCAA

Marquette’s Vander Blue gets excited after his steal and dunk during the second half of a 74-72 comeback victory over Butler, which was keyed by Blue’s 19 second-half points.

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Marquette’s Vander Blue gets excited after his steal and dunk during the second half of a 74-72 comeback victory over Butler, which was keyed by Blue’s 19 second-half points.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Back and forth went Marquette and Butler, trading makes and misses in a high-intensity rematch that made a case for being the best game so far of this NCAA Tournament.

In the end, Vander Blue and the Golden Eagles advanced as the Bulldogs couldn't muster any more of their March magic.

Blue scored 19 in the second half to rally third-seeded Marquette out of another hole, and the Golden Eagles (25-8) survived 74-72 Saturday to reach the Sweet 16.

"I know everybody in our team, we weren't ready to go home," said Blue, who made a last-second layup to win Marquette's first game of this tournament. "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."

Like November's first meeting between the teams at the Maui Invitational, won 72-71 by Butler on Rotnei Clarke's buzzer-beating 3-pointer, it came down to the final shot. Only this time, Butler (28-9) missed.

"The difference in the game was the level of pressure they put on us in the second half and certainly the shots they made," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "They had a few I didn't think were going in that bounced in.

"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."

Marquette will meet the winner of today's game between Illinois and Miami on Thursday in the East Region semifinals at Washington, D.C.

"We could have easily been beat by Davidson," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "We could easily have been beaten (Saturday). Our character, toughness and the resiliency of our guys is maybe unlike any team I've ever been around. I stand at attention and respect for how those kids are. …

"It's just another Marquette game. We're not good enough to blow anybody out. We're just good enough to get blown out. And if we can turn it into a fight and make it ugly, then it probably trends toward it helps us the most."

It will be Marquette's third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, but the Golden Eagles are seeking to move past that round for the first time since 2003, when Dwyane Wade led them to the Final Four.

"There were multiple times we could have gave up," Blue said. "But there's something about this group. We're relentless and we want to win. We're not ready to go home yet."

SYRACUSE 66, CAL 60: C.J. Fair scored 18, James Southerland added 14 and the fourth-seeded Orange (28-9) survived a drought of more than 12 minutes without a field goal in the second half to beat the No. 12 seed Golden Bears (21-12) in San Jose, Calif.

Syracuse frustrated California with its zone defense to overcome a dismal shooting night when it made just 39 percent of its shots and missed 15 of 41 free throws.

Marquette beats Butler in NCAA 03/23/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 1:24am]

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