When Butler men's basketball coach Brad Stevens recruited Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke he knew the kid could shoot. Perhaps he realizes now just how well Clarke can fill it up.
Certainly, Marquette coach Buzz Williams does.
The fifth-year guard launched a 25-foot shot as the final second ticked off the clock and then watched from the floor as the ball fell through the net at the buzzer to lift Butler past Marquette 72-71 in the opening game of the 2012 EA Sports Maui Invitational on Monday.
The dramatic shot sends the Bulldogs into a second round contest against North Carolina on Tuesday (8 p.m. EDT, ESPN).
"It was just kind of a scramble play," Clarke said in a release. "I almost thought about flipping it to Roosevelt Jones, who was going down the lane, just to maybe have him drive and make a play. I ended up keeping it and got through and around a couple of guys and just let it up there, and luckily it went in."
Clarke's stunning shot rescued the Bulldogs, who trailed 71-69 with just eight seconds remaining. Marquette took the two-point lead on the first of two free throws by Golden Eagle junior Cadougan, but the Bulldogs were given their final chance when Cadougan missed the second toss.
Clarke released the ball with a Marquette defender jumping at him, and he was bumped to the floor as the ball arched toward the rim. When the ball cleared the net, the Butler guard was immediately smothered by a pile of teammates.
"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, but I've also been in it long enough to know it's hard being on the other side," Butler coach Brad Stevens said.
Butler (2-1) was plagued by early turnovers and fell behind 12-2 less than five minutes into the contest. That start helped the Golden Eagles (2-1) maintain the upper hand through most of the first half.
The Bulldogs clawed their way back and eventually tied the game at 23-23 on Clarke's second three-point field goal of the first half. Then, Bulldog freshman Kellen Dunham gave Butler a 25-23 lead with a pair of free throws. The Bulldogs led at halftime 31-30.
"We tried to simulate (Marquette's) pressure in practice, but I think it kind of surprised us how hard they came at us," Stevens said. "But I don't think we had a turnover in the second half and that is an unbelievable compliment to the guys who were handling the ball and our other guys for being aware that the guys handling the ball needed some extra help."
The lead changed hands four times, and the game was tied twice in the final 20 minutes. Marquette looked ready to take control of the contest when Vander Blue hit a three-point field goal with two minutes remaining to give the Golden Eagles a 67-62 lead.
But the Bulldogs battled back to tie the game at 67 on a dunk by junior Khyle Marshall and a conventional three-point play by senior Andrew Smith. A three-point play off a rebound by Marquette's Jake Thomas made it 70-67 with 30 seconds left, but Erik Fromm answered for the Bulldogs with a tip-in with just nine seconds remaining to set the stage for the final sequence.
Marshall led all scorers in the game with a career-high 24 points, and he topped all rebounders with nine. Clarke added 20 points, Jones had 12 and Smith finished with 10.