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INDIANAPOLIS – With less than a minute remaining in Butler's 69-57 overtime victory against Marquette on Saturday at a packed Hinkle Fieldhouse, Bulldog senior Khyle Marshall let fly a free throw.
The crowd roared its approval when it dropped in, and Marshall afforded himself a slight grin as teammate Erik Fromm gave him a high five.
It was a big deal for Marshall.
Any time he can make a free throw it's a big deal for Marshall.
“Khyle didn't make his free throws tonight,” Butler coach Brandon Miller said. “And he hasn't made a great percentage. But at the same time, I do believe that he's going to step up in crunch time and make the free throws.”
The numbers prove Miller correct, though Marshall's misses tend to stick in one's mind.
Marshall missed eight of his 10 attempts Saturday, and in doing so, he lowered his success (or lack thereof) rate to 49.4 percent (48 of 97) for this season. Those numbers aren't an anomaly for Marshall either. Over four seasons, he's made just 205 of his 381 attempts (53.8 percent), so Miller's confidence in his player appears – at first glance – to be nothing more than news conference bravado.
Marshall's misses were glaring Saturday and even more so in November when he missed a pair with nine seconds remaining against fifth-ranked Oklahoma State in a nationally televised game that the Bulldogs lost 69-67.
But to Marshall's credit, as his coach indicated, he hasn't often missed when truly counted on late in games.
In a 70-68 overtime loss against LSU earlier this season, Marshall did miss four of his six free-throw attempts in regulation, which obviously were critical in the outcome. But none were in the final minutes, and once the game got into the overtime session, he drained five of six attempts.
The same could be said of a double-overtime loss against DePaul recently, as well as an overtime loss against Georgetown last week. In those home defeats, Marshall was only nine of 17 from the line, but in the overtime periods, he made three of four attempts. Plus, as Miller points out, he does so many other valuable things on the floor that you can't possibly contemplate taking him out of the game.
“Khyle is a valuable piece to our team,” Miller said. “In the second half (against Marquette), when we went to him, he made big shots, he made big plays.”
That he did.
Marshall (18 points against the Golden Eagles) brings energy to the Bulldog offense, which sorely lacks skilled weapons – aside from sophomore guard Kellen Dunham. Marshall isn't really skilled, but he can get offensive put-backs, score off cuts, and he even made a jump hook in Saturday's victory.
Maddeningly however, he is more likely to score while being guarded closely (he's shooting 54.7 percent both this year, as well as throughout his career), than left completely unguarded from 15 feet.
But Miller is adamant that he's too important at both ends of the floor, particularly defensively, not to be used.
“Khyle's a huge part to our stops on the defensive end of the floor,” Miller said. “He's been in a lot of big games. He's been in situations where you needed to get a stop.”
A few more makes during the earlier portions of the games, however, and perhaps the “need” to get a stop won't be quite so dire.