Sophomore support

Sophomore support

Marquette's Davante Gardner fills Otule's void and then some.

With junior forward Chris Otule sidelined with a season-ending knee injury, the Golden Eagles don't really don't have too many options in the post.

Therefore, the Golden Eagles rely heavily on six-foot-nine sophomore Davante Gardner to be able to play quality minutes.

On Wednesday night, MU got 34 quality minutes and more from Gardner.

Gardner poured in career-highs in points (22) and rebounds (15) but maybe more importantly he was able to play those 34 minutes when others were saddled with foul trouble.

"It felt great," Gardner said of playing 34 minutes. "I knew I had to keep bringing energy to the team so we could get the win."

Gardner did just that, keeping MU afloat in the first half while teammates Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder were watching from the sidelines with two fouls apiece.

He did that by hitting six-of his-eight first-half field goal attempts en route to a 14 point effort before intermission.

After half, Gardner wasn't asked to score as much as Johnson-Odom scored 14 points of his 20 points in the first nine minutes of the second half.

Instead, Gardner turned his attention to the glass where he collected 11 rebounds after the break.

Following the game, it was Gardner's work on the boards that garnered the praise of Johnson-Odom.

"Davante, he was amazing tonight," said Johnson-Odom. "I mean 15 rebounds for a guy who is 6-7 or 6-8, 280 (lbs). I mean a lot of people didn't think he could get off the floor. So when we see [those rebounding numbers], it just gives us a lot of hope.

Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams also singled out the Suffolk, Va. native following the game.

"I thought he played outstanding," said Williams. "I thought he was the reason we were able to hang in there in the first half. He had nine defensive rebounds (and) I don't know if total he has had nine rebounds in his career."

It wasn't only the production of Gardner that caught Williams' attention; his demeanor on the court was something Williams noted.

"I thought he was by far the hardest playing guy on the floor. His energy level on a daily basis, our team's energy level on a daily basis, determines a lot for us. Energy and attitude, I think it says a lot in life and I think that says a lot in basketball."

There's no doubt MU will continue to count on Gardner to provide quality minutes as they continue through BIG EAST play. If he can provide the effort he did on Wednesday night on a consistent basis, there's no telling how high the Golden Eagles can fly.

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