On Saturday, Davante Gardner was in Buzz Williams’ doghouse with the Marquette coach benching his junior center after only 11 minutes against Villanova Wildcats for poor play.
What a difference 2 days make.
Gardner scored a career-high 26 points and No. 22 Marquette beat No. 12 Syracuse 74-71 on Monday night in a game that further tightened things at the very top of the Big East.
After Marquette’s 60-56 loss at Villanova, Williams claimed he benched Gardner center because ”he played really bad.”
Gardner played the exact opposite against Syracuse, making all 7 of his shots and changing 12 of 13 free throws in 33 minutes. He even attempted to help teammate Jamil Wilson wipe up some sweat on the court in the final minutes in a timeout.
Marquette missed 9 consecutive shots in the 1st half and was having to settle for jumpers, falling behind 25-14. Gardner started to make his large presence felt late in the half, scoring on a bounce back with 3:45 left in the 1st half for his first field goal.
Marquette (20-7, 11-4 Big East) pulled into 2nd place in the conference, one-half game behind No. 7 Georgetown Hoyas.
C.J. Fair had 20 points for Orange (22-6, 10-5), which has lost 3 of 5 and dropped into a tie for 4th with No. 21 Notre Dame.
No. 10 Louisville is alone in 3rd, a game behind Georgetown.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said his team lost as it could not handle Gardner and didn’t rebound well. Marquette made 29 of 35 free throws while Syracuse made only 5 of 7.
Reserve guard Todd Mayo hit 2 3-pointers during decisive 15-2 Golden Eagles run in the 2nd half, and Gardner gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good at 56-55 on an 8-foot jumper in the lane with 5:05 left.
Michael Carter-Williams hit a 3-pointer with 1 second left to pull the Syracuse inside 73-71, but Vander Blue hit a free throw with 2-tenths of a 2nd to go. Syracuse didn’t get a shot off and the game ended.
Mayo’s second 3 made it 59-55 with 3:54 to go, and Junior Cadougan was fouled while attempting a fast-break layup.
Syracuse called time out, and Gardner and Wilson didn’t immediately go to the bench. They tried to clean up sweat in the Syracuse Orange lane. Wilson grabbed a mop with Gardner pointing out the perspiration while Marquette assistant coaches frantically waved for them to leave the cleanup for others and join the huddle. NFL lines
James Southerland hit 2 3-pointers to keep the Orange close in the final 70 seconds, but Golden Eagles made its free throws to hold the lead.
Marquette made 24 of 28 free throws in the 2nd half while Syracuse was 1 of 2.
Cadougan and Wilson both scored 12 points for Marquette Golden Eagles, which extended its home winning streak to 24 games, 2nd-longest in the nation.
Southerland scored 15 points and Carter-Williams added 14 for the Orange.
Fair scored 12 points as Syracuse Orange took a 32-29 halftime lead.
Both teams have key games Saturday, with Syracuse Orange hosting Louisville Cardinals and Marquette hosting Notre Dame Fighting Irish.