Sparked by a career night from Davante Gardner, Marquette gutted its way to within a half game of first place in the Big East with a 74-71 win over Syracuse Monday night.
Gardner’s 26 points were a career high, surpassing his 22-point effort against St. John’s on Jan. 11, 2012. His two free throws with 22.1 seconds left essentially iced the game.
Gardner only played 11 minutes at Villanova on Saturday and coach Buzz Williams said his energy level was much better tonight, despite playing 33 minutes.
“Those offensive rebounds he got amidst really talented players were huge,” Williams said. “I think against their zone he understands where the gap is.”
Gardner had four of Marquette’s 15 offensive rebounds and the Golden Eagles rebounded 55.6 percent of their missed shots (15 of 27).
Syracuse’s 2-3 zone stifled Marquette for much of the first half, holding the Golden Eagles scoreless for nearly eight minutes as the Orange went on a 13-0 run.
A Jake Thomas – the same Jake Thomas who hadn’t made a field goal since Dec. 22 –4-point play and lay up by Junior Cadougan cut the Orange lead to 29-27, but a 3-point play on the other end by Baye Moussa Keita stopped the bleeding momentarily.
Jamil Wilson then brought the crowd right back in it with an alley-oop flush and Michael Carter-Williams missed a jumper on the other end to bring the first half to a close with Syracuse leading 32-29.
Williams started the second half with Wilson and Gardner in place of Lockett and Anderson and Marquette scored eight points in three and a half minutes to take a 37-36 lead on a Cadougan runner that forced a Syracuse timeout.
A layup from Brandon Triche and a three from James Southerland tilted momentum back to Syracuse, with the Orange grabbing a 41-37 lead at the first media timeout of the second half. Southerland hit another three moments later to open up a 44-37 lead, but Wilson answered on the other end with his first three of the contest.
Following a Triche layup, Marquette went on a 15-2 run over the next six minutes.
A three from Todd Mayo and a pair of Wilson free throws cut the Syracuse lead to 53-52 with 6:52 left. After a Triche jumper, consecutive baskets by Gardner gave Marquette a 56-55 lead with 4:58 left.
Mayo then hit a three with the shot clock expiring and a Carter-Williams turnover led to Cadougan getting fouled on the other end, where he converted both free throws to give Marquette its biggest lead at 61-55.
Southerland’s three cut the Marquette lead to five with 1:10 left and after a pair of free throws from Cadougan, he hit another three after missing a trio. Mayo then hit one of two free throws to make it 68-63.
Marquette hit 14 of 17 free throws over the final 3:37 to close it out.
The Golden Eagles have now won 24 straight games at home, the second longest home win streak in the country. The win was also Marquette’s sixth straight at home against ranked opponents, which started with a win over then-No. 9 Syracuse on Jan. 29, 2011.