MILWAUKEE — On Saturday, Davante Gardner was in Buzz Williams’ doghouse with the Marquette coach benching his junior center after only 11 minutes against Villanova for poor play.
What a difference two days make.
Gardner scored a career-high 26 points and No. 22 Marquette beat No. 12 Syracuse 74-71 on Monday night in a game that further tightened things at the top of the Big East.
“Against their zone he understands where their gap is," Williams said of Gardner. “He just understands space and obviously he did a really good job."
After Marquette’s 60-56 loss at Villanova on Saturday, Williams said he benched Gardner because “he played really bad."
Gardner played the exact opposite against Syracuse, making all seven of his shots and converting 12 of 13 free throws in 33 minutes. He even tried to help teammate Jamil Wilson wipe up some sweat on the court in the final minutes during a timeout.
“I know I didn’t play well against Villanova," Gardner said. “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."
Marquette missed nine consecutive shots in the first half and was having to settle for jumpers, falling behind 25-14. Gardner started to make his large presence felt late in the half, scoring on a rebound with 3:45 left in the first half for his first field goal.
Gardner dominated from there. When he wasn’t scoring, he was getting fouled and making free throws.
Williams said Gardner understands how to find gaps in zone defenses, including the one run by the Orange.
“You’ve got to make that zone collapse, otherwise their length smothers you," Williams said of Syracuse.
In other games on Monday:
No. 6 Kansas 108
Iowa State 96
AMES, Iowa — Elijah Johnson scored a career-high 39 points — 12 in overtime — and Kansas rallied to beat Iowa State for coach Bill Self’s 500th career win.
No. 13 Kansas State 75
Texas Tech 55
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Thomas Gipson scored 20 points, Angel Rodriguez added 16 and Kansas State reached 12 conference wins for the first time in 40 years.