It hasn’t been an easy week for Davante Gardner, getting benched by Buzz Williams in the previous game and coming off the bench against Syracuse. The “punishment” worked, and Gardner led Marquette to a big win while enjoying the best game of his career.

With the 74-71 win, Marquette go by Syracuse in the Big East standings (tied for second with 11-4) while the Orange, losing two games in a row, drop to their tier in the division with a 10-5 record. It didn’t look like a losing effort, not early on, but both Gardner and the Marquette zone defense was too much for Syracuse.

I know I didn’t play well against Villanova. I didn’t have a good game, so I decided I’d play my best against Syracuse and try to get my team a win.

Brandon Triche made a layup with nine minutes remaining in the game to give Syracuse a 53-46 lead, but they were outscored by 10 points in the final nine minutes of the game. More interesting was the aggressiveness and disparity from the line – Marquette went to the line 20 times during those nine minutes, making 29-35 on the day (82.9%), while Syracuse didn’t get to the line even once during the ending.

As usual, quite a few reporters were questioning the decisions of Jim Boeheim during the final minutes, as it seems the head coach, who has been with Syracuse forever, is always on the hot seat over the last few years.

We scored enough points tonight, I just think our defense wasn’t good enough, especially our rebounding. You ought to know by now that if you start to ask me those questions, I’ll just laugh at you.

Davante Gardner had his best game of his career, scoring 26 points, shooting 7-7 from the line and 12-13 from the line, all while coming off the bench. He’s 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, attempting at least 10 shots. Gardner was huge on the offensive boards as well, scoring 10 points from them, 8 off of his own misses.

Marquette grabbed 55.6 percent of its missed shots Monday, its highest offensive rebounding percentage in a Big East game in the last five seasons. Marquette’s 15 second-chance points are the second most Syracuse has allowed in a conference game this season.

The defense was great as well – Marquette played zone defense on a season-high 63.6% of its defensive possessions, limiting Syracuse to 4-18 from beyond the arc against the zone (22.2%, ‘Cuse were 8-24 on the night against man to man or transition). Entering the game, Marquette played zone on only 11.9% of their defensive possessions, in the half court this season. On the other end, they scored 61 points against the Syracuse zone, the most that type of defense has allowed this season by the Orange.

You’ve got to make that zone collapse, otherwise their length smothers you. Against their zone he understands where their gap is. He just understands space and obviously he did a really good job. That’s coming from a head coach that benched Gardner after only 11 minutes in the 65-60 loss to Villanova during the weekend.

Image: Source