LAHAINA - The EA Sports Maui Invitational started with a resounding end - the sound of the net ripping to decide a thriller.
Rotnei Clarke hit a remarkable buzzer-beating 3-pointer, and Butler defeated Marquette 72-71 on Monday at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Clarke took the ball on an inbounds pass with eight seconds left and his team down two. The Marquette defense was tough all the way down the court, including Vander Blue's hand in Clarke's face as he got the shot away.
Rotnei Clarke ends up on his back as coaches, teammates and fans celebrate after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Butler a 72-71 victory over Marquette on Monday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The off-balance, one-handed 24-footer found nothing but net, and the Bulldogs (2-1), making their tournament debut, earned a semifinal meeting today with North Carolina, ranked ninth in the nation by The Associated Press.
The stunner capped a 10-4 run for Butler in the final two minutes.
"It was a scramble play," said Clarke, who finished with 20 points on 7-for-21 shooting. "I was dribbling around and I almost thought about flipping it to Roosevelt Jones, who was running down the lane and have him drive in and make a play. I ended up keeping it, got through and around a couple of guys and luckily it went in."
BUTLER Bulldogs 72
MARQUETTE Golden Eagles 71
The 6-foot, 184-pound senior was the only player on his team who made a 3-pointer all day - he finished 3-for-14.
"I don't think we could have played better defense," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. "He shot it off one foot under duress. It was contested and as soon as the ball left his hand I knew it was basket. The trajectory and everything was perfect."
Marquette (2-1) scored 12 straight points to take a 12-2 lead before Clarke's first 3-pointer tied the score at 23-23 with 3:58 left in the first half. After that the largest lead for either team was four until Junior Cadougan made a jumper to put the Golden Eagles on top 55-49 with 7:15 to play.
Blue's 3-pointer gave Marquette a 67-62 lead with 2:01 remaining, but Khyle Marshall dunked off an alley-oop pass from Jones, Andrew Smith put home a layup and Smith made a free throw to tie the game with 1:05 left.
The Golden Eagles went in front 70-67 on a three-point play by Jake Thomas with 30 seconds to go - the 6-3 guard flew in for a rebound over the 6-11 Smith, put home a follow shot and was fouled.
Erik Fromm scored with nine seconds left to make it 70-69, and Cadougan made the second of two free throws with eight seconds to play.
Clarke then did the rest, setting off an eruption on the Butler booster side of the gym, while bringing hands to the heads of many of the Marquette faithful.
"We are disappointed in the loss, but encouraged by how hard our guys played," Williams said.
Marshall led the way for Butler with 24 points, shooting 11-for-15 from the field, and nine rebounds. Jones added 12 points and Smith had 10.
Blue scored 21 points for the Golden Eagles, who will play Mississippi State today. Ca-dougan added 14 and Steve Taylor had 12 in 16 minutes off the bench.
"My hat's off to Marquette," said Butler coach Brad Ste-vens. "People are going to over-analyze who won and who lost. Both teams played hard all the way to the wire. It's tough to swallow (for Marquette).
"I've been in this long enough to know that there are very few thrills like a buzzer-beater, especially one off of one foot, running. I've also been around long enough to know it's hard to be on the other side."
After the two teams combined for 18 turnovers in the first half, there were only three in the second, all by Marquette.
"That is an unbelievable compliment to the guys who are handling the ball," Stevens said of his team.
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
Clarke 7-21 2-3 20, Jones 5-8 2-5 12, Marshall 11-15 2-6 24, Dunham 0-1 4-4 4, Smith 3-10 4-7 10, Fromm 1-1 0-0 2, Aldridge 0-4 0-0 0, Woods 0-0 0-0 0, Stigall 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-61 14-25 72.
J. Wilson 0-4 0-0 0, Cadougan 5-9 3-4 14, Anderson 2-3 1-4 5, Blue 7-14 4-5 21, Otule 1-1 1-1 3, Ferguson 0-0 0-0 0, D. Wilson 0-0 2-2 2, Lockett 3-6 3-5 9, Thomas 1-2 1-1 3, Taylor, Jr. 1-3 0-0 2, Gardner 4-7 4-6 12. Totals 24-49 19-28 71.
Halftime-Butler 31-30. 3-Point Goals-Butler 4-21 (Clarke 4-14, Stigall 0-1, Dunham 0-1, Aldridge 0-2, Smith 0-3), Marquette 4-14 (Blue 3-5, Cadougan 1-3, J. Wilson 0-1, Lockett 0-1, Thomas 0-1, Anderson 0-1, Taylor, Jr. 0-2). Fouled Out-Lockett, Smith. Rebounds-Butler 34 (Marshall 9), Marquette 37 (Gardner 7). Assists-Butler 10 (Jones 4), Marquette 7 (Cadougan 3). Total Fouls-Butler 22, Marquette 24. A-2,400.