Davante Gardner

Marquette gets 26 from Gardner in victory over Syracuse

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Marquette’s Davante Gardner must’ve taken something from Otto Porter’s performance on Saturday.

Two days after Georgetown’s leading man hung 33 on Syracuse in a win, Gardner put up his own big game with 26 points and eight rebounds in a 74-71 home win over the Orange.

Gardner mixed in few mid-range jumpers — he hit all seven of his attempts on the night — along with his work around the basket and got to the free throw line often, hitting 12-of-13 from there.

He paced the Golden Eagles, who hit 29-of-35 free throws (82.9 percent) on the night. On the other side of the free throw spectrum, Syracuse was only 5-of-7 from the free throw line on the night.

Jamil Wilson and Junior Cadougan chipped in 12 points each as no. 22 Marquette (20-7, 11-4 Big East Conference) had 16 assists on 20 baskets and shot 42.6-percent from the field. C.J. Fair led no. 12 Syracuse (22-6, 10-5) with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Michael Carter-Williams scored 14 with five assists and committed four turnovers. James Southerland dropped in 15 points, including 4-of-11 threes.

With the win, Marquette moves into sole-possession of second place behind Georgetown in the Big East. The loss drops the Orange into a tie with Notre Dame for fourth place.

It was a breakout game for Gardner, a 6-8, 290-pound junior, who is averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds this season.

The game was also indicative of the type of season Gardner has had and how Marquette’s run almost parallel with his performance. Gardner has failed to score in double-figures in seven games this season. The Golden Eagles have lost five of those games. The two Marquette did win? Both wins over South Florida (eight in one game, four in the other), with a two-point effort in a loss to Louisville sandwiched in-between.

Gardner is also coming off a two-point, 1-for-4 effort in 11 minutes in a 60-56 loss at Villanova on Saturday.

An equally impressive stat is that with all of his consistency in scoring this season, Monday night’s effort was his first outing of 20+ points. It’s also his fourth game of 10+ free throws on the year and his second perfect shooting night, adding on to a 6-for-6 night in a 74-67 overtime win at Pittsburgh.

The big man is a necessary cog for Buzz Williams’ team, which virtually locked up an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament with the win on Monday night, if it hadn’t already. Marquette had an RPI of 16 headed into the game.

Gardner’s scoring numbers essentially pacing Marquette’s outcomes is staggering. And it’s something to watch as we get closer to conference tournament time. Gardner is the Golden Eagles’ primary low-post threat and has proven to have the type of game that allows him to the go-to guy they need. That could carry Marquette to an extent in the Big East Tournament, when the seeding fate will be decided.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

BUBBLE BANTER: All of the action on the fringe of the NCAA tournament

Fred VanVleet
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Tonight’s bubble action. This post will be updated as the games are completed.

Cincinnati at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
Pitt at No. 12 Miami, 7:00 p.m.
No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
Ole Miss at Florida, 9:00 p.m.
Georgia at No. 22 Kentucky, 9:00 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 9:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.