Marquette avoids major upset with overtime win

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Senior forward Davante Gardner attacks the rim during Marquette's game versus No. 4/5 Villanova on Saturday January 25th, 2014.

Davante Gardner attacks the rim against Villanova. (Photo by Mike Cianciolo)

With their backs to the wall and at risk of being dealt a devastating blow to their tournament resume, the Marquette Golden Eagles buckled down.

Behind senior Davante Gardner’s 22 points, junior Todd Mayo’s 19 and senior Jamil Wilson’s 18 points and nine rebounds, Marquette topped DePaul 96-94 in overtime Saturday at Allstate Arena.

Marquette (16-11, 8-6) avoided disastrous consequences by picking up the win. DePaul has lost 10 straight games and slipped to 2-13 in the Big East with the defeat.

The Golden Eagles let a 15-point second half lead go to waste as the Blue Demons used the productive tandem of Brandon Young (29 points, six assists) and Billy Garrett, Jr. (26 points) to force the extra period.

“They played like they were one of the top contenders in the league,” redshirt senior Chris Otule (12 points) said. “That was a very impressive win for us and very impressive play on their side.”

Traling 58-43 with 15:04 to go, DePaul gradually began chipping away at the deficit. Garrett scored 10 points in a 25-10 surge that knotted the game at 68 with six minutes remaining.

The largest discrepancy from that point forward was six, when Marquette led 77-71. Two foul shots by Jamil Wilson with 8.1 seconds remaining made the score 82-79. Garrett’s clutch three-pointer on the following possession tied the game with 2.3 seconds left.

Jamil Wilson fouled out with 2:03 left in overtime with Marquette behind by one. Gardner converted an and-1 moments later to put the Golden Eagles ahead by two, never to trail again.

Garrett missed two pivotal free throws and was called for a charge in the ensuing seconds as Gardner and junior Derrick Wilson each scored to widen the gap to six. Marquette managed to get the job done late despite Jamil Wilson’s absence.

“That changes our team,” coach Buzz Williams said. “Obviously (Jamil’s) really good defensively. He’s always going to be in the mix to get defensive rebounds. You trust him with the ball in his hands offensively, particularly in a critical stretch like that. For those guys to close down the game without Jamil, I thought says a lot about who they are.”

Otule was a difference-maker in the post, scoring all 12 of his points in the second half and overtime. Thanks in part to Otule’s defense, Marquette held a 48-26 scoring edge in the paint.

“I just got more aggressive, more confident as the game went on, and it definitely showed in the second half,” Otule said.

DePaul shot 14-of-29 from three-point range and finished at 46 percent from the field despite missing its first 10 shots. It took the Blue Demons more than six minutes to score their first field goals in each half.

“I thought how we started the game was really good,” Williams said. “Arguably, defensively (that’s) as good as we’ve been. If they played six minutes without a basket in the first half and they scored 41 points over the next 14 minutes, we went from being as good as you can be to arguably as bad as you can be. Both halves were similar in how they started and how they finished.”

The game was not without its quirks; Derrick Wilson connected on a 65-foot heave after Garrett’s game-tying three near the end of regulation, but Williams had called a timeout seconds before.

“We said Buzz can’t use his timeouts anymore under four seconds because he made it,” Jamil Wilson said. “I didn’t actually hear the whistle, so I thought the game was over … but good for Derrick. He’s our half-court shooter now.”

DePaul was playing its eighth straight game without its leading scorer Cleveland Melvin (16.7 ppg), who withdrew from the university earlier this month for undisclosed reasons.