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Top 2012-13 Performances: No. 2 Davante Gardner vs. Syracuse

(USA TODAY Sports)

(USA TODAY Sports)

Statline: 26 pts, 8 reb, 7-7 FG, 12-13 FT, 33 min

Quality of opponent: 8/10. Two thoughts here. 1)Syracuse came into the Bradley Center for the final time in a bit of a slump that would turn into a downright freefall, losing five of eight games and causing coach Jim Boeheim to blow up at the media a few times. 2) The same Syracuse squad came within one half of winning the Big East Tournament and ended up making the Final Four with a zone defense so stifling, it made coffins feel roomy. Taking all this into account, Syracuse was a very difficult opponent and probably the best team to visit the Bradley Center this season.

Magnitude of game: 9/10. This game was Big. Not lowercase ‘b’ big, but full on ESPN headline Big, as it was a nationally televised Big Monday matchup. Anytime Jay Bilas and co. are in the house, you know the stakes are a bit higher. Add to that the fact that Marquette had just laid a clunker at Villanova to drop out of first place in the Big East, and this was a crucial test to see if the Golden Eagles were for real.

Rundown: After a decent start from Marquette the wheels fell off and it looked as if Syracuse would run away with it. Gardner wasn’t getting any touches, only scoring one point in the opening 16 mintes, and the offense was simply non-existent. One freak Jake Thomas four-point play later and it was on. Gardner scored seven points down the stretch in the first half, setting up what would be his opus in the second. The big fella scored 18 points in 19 minutes, not missing a shot (4-4) or a free throw (10-10) in the second half, and doing everything from hitting 16-footers to floaters in the paint. Syracuse simply had no answer for Gardner as Marquette downed the Orange 74-71.

Key play: There was no specific play that encapsulated or sparked his performance, though the video above is a sweet reminder of how pure his stroke is.  Instead, what was really impressive was the amount of offensive rebounds Gardner turned directly into points. The Ox grabbed three offensive boards and turned those into six points. All in all, Gardner had 10 of Marquette’s 15 second-chance points, eight of which came off of his own offensive rebounds. It’s demoralizing enough to extend a possession, but to convert nearly every time is just unheard of.

Wow factor: According to ESPN Stats: “Gardner is the only player in the past 17 seasons to come off the bench and go 7-for-7 or better from the floor and shoot at least 90 percent from the foul line (min. 10 attempts).” Just take a second to read that over once more. This was a performance that hadn’t been replicated in almost two decades, and that’s without factoring that it came against a zone defense that was the fifth best in the country, according to KenPom.

Historical precedent: There is no precedent for what Gardner accomplished. Not at Marquette at least. So getting a little creative here, the most similar performance we found was David Cubillan’s 3-point frenzy against Georgetown in 2010. Yes, these players are nothing like each other, but the feats are similar. Cubillan went 6-6 from long distance to finish with 18 points in 34 minutes. They both also helped take down a higher ranked Big East foe at the Bradley Center.

Closing time: Gardner scored back-to-back buckets at with just over five minutes remaining to give Marquette the lead for good. He also knocked down two freebies with 22 seconds left to push the lead to seven points, a margin that would would prove too much for Syracuse’s late flurry of 3-pointers.

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Categories: 2012-13 Review, Analysis, Home, Offseason

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