Marquette Wire

Gardner leads average Marquette team

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Matthew Trebby

Matthew Trebby

Marquette is not as talented as Syracuse. It doesn’t have the NBA prospects that the Orange have, and it doesn’t have a couple potential All-Americans either.

In the early parts of the first half last night, it was evident why Syracuse was a step ahead. It has players like Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. Fair who can take over a game.

Unfortunately, Syracuse does not have Davante Gardner.

The junior forward continues to make me use my thesaurus and find new words to describe him. The enigmatic big man is truly one-of-a-kind. He, like Carter-Williams and Fair, can take over a game, but Gardner does so much more than that.

Against Syracuse, Gardner scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds, shooting a perfect 7 of 7 from the field and 12 of 13 from the free throw line. The one free throw he missed was his first, by the way, so he made 19 consecutive shots.

No matter who Marquette plays for the rest of the season, it will always have Gardner to catch its opponent off-guard. Syracuse has Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita, some of the best defenders in college basketball. While Gardner has been contained at times this season, Christmas and Keita had no chance.

The Orange and coach Jim Boeheim had no answer for Gardner. Possession after possession, the Golden Eagles fed him the ball down low, and possession after possession, Gardner pulled Marquette back into the game.

While Todd Mayo and even Jake Thomas provided some spectacular shots for the Golden Eagles, it was Gardner who was always at the center of the action. Gardner always finds a way to get all the attention on himself in the best way possible.

When examining the best teams in college basketball, there are few teams that have a legitimate answer to Gardner in a one-on-one situation in the post. Gorgui Dieng of Louisville and maybe Jeff Withey of Kansas could give him some difficulty. Some teams have done a good job of containing “the Ox” this season. We saw Villanova figure out a way to keep Gardner on the bench for the majority of the game this past Saturday.

But if the Golden Eagles need offense and to gather some momentum, they can usually find a way to get the ball to Gardner. He doesn’t need great angles or looks at the basket. Gardner’s game simply requires a couple inches.

Marquette’s Buzz Williams is right when he talks about how his team isn’t that good. It really isn’t. It lacks consistent scoring from the guard position and also struggles shooting from the perimeter. I could go on and on about what the Golden Eagles don’t do well.

It’s fitting that Marquette’s best finisher is 6-foot-8 and 290 lbs. That doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense for the Golden Eagles to be tied for the lead in the Big East, though, either. Led by Gardner, Marquette is putting itself in a pretty good position for a third straight Sweet Sixteen.

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