LEXINGTON, Ky. — Butler coach Brad Stevens is a statistical genius. So when he says that not many players have scored 50 points against his team in just two games, he’s probably right.
Marquette guard Vander Blue has reached that mark against the Bulldogs this season, including scoring 29 in Saturday night’s 74-72 Marquette victory at Rupp Arena to advance to the Sweet 16.
“Pretty unique,” Stevens said. ” … Just a hard guy to stop.”
Nineteen of Blue’s 29 points came in the second half. He was relentless on the defensive end, as well, and was one of the reasons why the Golden Eagles were able to play at their preferred tempo after halftime.
“His competitiveness overwhelms our team,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “His fire burns really, really bright, and it’s not orange, it’s white, it’s that hot. And I love coaching guys that are hard-knock guys. I really like coaching guys whose fire burns like his.
“The first 18 months of his career, he was criticized at an all-time high because he didn’t meet expectations. That just builds a big edge, and you’re coaching him with shoulder pads each day. That’s kind of how I coach, so we get along great.”
Blue had a key layup to tie the game and immediately followed it up with a steal and a dunk to give Marquette its first lead of the second half at 60-58. Blue’s biggest shot of the night came with Marquette down, 69-66. Junior Cadougan drove and found Blue open in the corner. He didn’t hesitate to hoist and drill a 3-pointer, tying the game with 1:25 left.
“I rose up and shot it with no conscience because I knew we needed that,” Blue said. “I didn’t want to celebrate too much because it was still a ballgame. I wasn’t thinking much after I made it, just that we need another stop.”
The Golden Eagles never trailed after Blue’s corner 3. His 29 points fell one shy of his career-high he set this season against South Florida.
“I got in the groove early in the second half, so I was able to get it done with my teammates finding me to take shots I take every day,” Blue said. ” … Multiple times today we could have gave up and lost the game. Just something about this group that we are just relentless and we just want to win and we’re not ready to go home yet.”
Buzz jabs NCAA: Speaking of going home, Williams wasn’t too happy Marquette was forced to fly home immediately after a game that ended close to 10:30 p.m. local time.
“How about the NCAA — what time is it? We’ve got to fly out of here,” Williams said. “All money that’s being generated, and we can’t go back over to the hotel and lay down and order a hamburger.”
Williams — who always entertains during press conferences — was particularly chippy Saturday night. Not only did he take a cut at the NCAA, he offered a drawn out explanation to why he couldn’t answer a reporter’s question about what he did different defensively on the game’s last possession.
Cadougan steps up: Part of a senior’s mindset is to go all out when his career is about to be over.
For the first half Saturday, Cadougan was scoreless, missed all three of his shots and had two turnovers. Williams let him have it at halftime.
“I just like hollering at him,” Williams said. “He can take it. Quit turning the ball over, quit just sitting there with bad body language. I added a couple of different words, but just hollering.”
Cadougan responded with nine points on 4 of 5 shooting with just one turnover. He also combined with Derrick Wilson to hold Butler’s Rotnei Clarke scoreless for the final 15 minutes of the game after Clarke had 24 points in the first 25.
“It goes back to the first half,” Cadougan said of shutting down Clarke. “We were trying to pressure him too much and off ball screens trying to play him up too high. We were just thinking too much.
“Second half, me and Derrick Wilson did a great job of gearing him down and knowing what to do on the ball screens, contesting his shots and trying to wear him out so we could make the other guys beat us instead of him.”
Though Derrick Wilson didn’t score a point in Marquette’s two NCAA tournament wins, Williams credited him as a major factor in why the Golden Eagles won both.
“I think Derrick Wilson is the reason we’re still playing,” Williams said. “That’s just my opinion. I think the job that he’s done defensively in the 29, 30 minutes that he’s played since we’ve been at Kentucky have been phenomenal, and I think he has changed the course of our team.”
In the hospital: Williams revealed postgame that his wife Corey has been in the hospital for the majority of the time the Golden Eagles have spent in Lexington.
She had to have an emergency appendectomy early on Wednesday morning.
When asked how she was doing, Williams responded “She’s tougher than any of us.”