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Gardner rescues struggling offense in win over SE Louisiana

Buzz Williams thinks this year’s offense will be contain a leading scorer-by committee approach on a nightly basis.

But the question of who will be the team’s go-to scorer in the clutch?  Forward Davante Gardner took home that award Tuesday night.

Gardner took center stage on two different occasions after Marquette nearly lost leads, scoring 18 points in the Golden Eagles’ 64-53 win over Southeastern Louisiana Tuesday night at the Bradley Center.

With Marquette clinging to a 53-51 at the 4:13 mark of the second half, Gardner, playing center with the starters, scored on back-to-back possessions that opened up a six-point lead the Lions were never able to overcome.

Gardner also stepped up earlier in that half, following an offensive rebound and score from SE Louisiana’s Roosevelt Johnson that gave the Lions a 37-36 lead, their first of the night. Gardner responded, scoring six straight points that began a 14-6 Marquette run midway through the second half. A Junior Cadougan jumper and four Trent Lockett made free throws also carried the run, and it seemed Marquette was ready to pull away.

“When we shoot shots that we practice, when we shoot shots within the flow of what we do, when we shoot shots after a paint touch, our percentages have spoken for themselves during our tenure,” Williams said. ”

But the Lions’ experienced-laden group had an answer, scoring the next nine points, including six from Jefferey Ricard, who finished with a team-high 11 points.

It was then that Gardner went to work with two of his patented up-and-under moves that bailed out a Marquette offense that shot just 33 percent from the field in the first half. Marquette made just 2-of-10 shots from beyond the arc, and those two makes came from forwards Juan Anderson and Steve Taylor Jr.

“We didn’t make many tonight at all. We were inept at times. The thing that’s staggering to me is that we made 22 baskets, 18 of them were assisted,” Williams said. “When we do what we practice, we’re OK. And when we do what we don’t practice, we’re really, really bad. We have to have more discipline within what we do and what we practice.”

In the opening 20 minutes, Lockett played just three minutes (two fouls) and Jamil Wilson went scoreless on six field goal attempts. The Golden Eagles seemed to be in a hurry to try and get to the basket and draw fouls. All 11 scholarship players saw action in the first half, as Chris Otule’s 8 points and 4 rebounds led the way. He finished with 10 points in the win.

“Both (Gardner and Otule) have been really good in both games, and you can tell even tonight when things were struggling, we were relying on them,” Williams said, “which I think is positive.”

Yet at the same time the group, playing their second game without graduated seniors Darius Johnson-Odom and Chris Otule, struggled mightily to find a rhythm on offense, their defense was superb.

Marquette held the Lions to 35 percent shooting, forced 14 turnovers they turned into 14 points and held all but one scorer, Ricard, in single-digits.

Marquette took a 28-18 lead after a Chris Otule lay-in, but SE Louisiana responded with an 11-4 run to close the half, including a pair of 3-pointers from senior Todd Nelson. The Lions shot just 36 percent from the field, but managed nine fast break points to keep things close.

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