Blue comes up huge for Marquette again

Journey to Atlanta (2:15)

Andy Katz talks to Marquette G Vander Blue after he propels the Golden Eagles past Davidson. (2:15)

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Vander Blue had made that exact shot, just from the other side, two weeks ago.

He was on a grand stage and the stakes were high -- at Madison Square Garden, with a chance to lock up a share of the Big East regular-season title for Marquette.

But for Blue to get a chance to mimic the shot that beat St. John’s on March 9 -- a shot with 1 second remaining Thursday that would knock off Davidson 59-58 in the opening game of the NCAA tournament for both teams -- he needed two unpredictable events.

Davidson had to throw the ball out of bounds on a poorly executed inbounds attempt, and the third-seeded Golden Eagles needed a timeout to settle down.

Davidson obliged with the turnover.

The officials then gave Marquette the chance to talk over the final play and calm any late-game angst. Not through anything of the Golden Eagles' doing, however: Marquette didn't have any timeouts remaining, but the refs had to go to the monitor to ensure there were 6.7 seconds remaining and not 5.5, which is what the scoreboard read.

Maybe, in a future NCAA tournament or regular-season game, the sport will see fit to force the players to stay on the court and not huddle with their staff when a timeout isn’t available. But that’s not the case now.

“Unfair advantage,” said Davidson coach Bob McKillop. “We certainly knew they didn’t have a timeout and that’s why we didn’t call a timeout there when they made that 3 [to bring Marquette within a point 58-57], because they didn’t have one.”

Marquette coach Buzz Williams said the stoppage of play was an unexpected advantage for one reason -- his players needed to chill.

“It definitely helped,” said Williams, adding that he almost never finds himself without a timeout in late-game situations.

“Our guys knew what we were going to run, but it probably helped us to calm down somewhat,” said Williams. “They had been changing man to zone, zone to man. We were going to run the same play, but I would say emotionally it probably helped more than strategically.”

Davidson’s Jake Cohen said he got switched on the play, and then Blue sliced past to the hoop and finished. The layup essentially ended a terrific performance by Cohen, whose versatility in scoring (20 points) and assists (one, but it was on a key cut to the basket for a deuce) were on display.

McKillop said the No. 14-seeded Wildcats were trying to get Blue to catch the ball away from the basket. He went right to it and got the hoop.

Davidson (26-8) went from being the story to being forgotten in a matter of seconds.

“You can tell by our faces we’re not happy about it,” said Cohen. “It’s devastating.”

Blue, meanwhile, was euphoric.

“We got their 5-man to stand up a bit, and it was a footrace to the basket,” said Blue. “I’m just grateful that Coach has unbelievable trust in me to take the last shot, and all my teammates wanted me to shoot the ball.”

The bucket to beat St. John’s was the appetizer for an entree that Blue will remember forever.

“It prepared me a little bit,” said Blue. “But all I was thinking was if I get to the rim, I’ve got to finish, because if I don’t make that, we probably lose.”

Up next for the Golden Eagles (24-8) on Saturday at Rupp Arena is sixth-seeded Butler, which beat them in the Maui Invitational in November on a Rotnei Clarke running 3-pointer.

Those memories are still fresh for Marquette.

“For me, it’s the last shot when Rotnei Clarke hit it,” said Blue. “I would say everybody would say that.”