The start was Gardner's first since 2011-12 and the 13th of his four-year career with Marquette. It was also the first start alongside sixth-year senior center Chris Otule and Jamil Wilson getting the starting nod at point guard in place of Derrick Wilson. "It went great,” said Gardner. "We work on big lineups in practice. I like playing with Chris and on the wing. It gives me more space to dribble and score.” Gardner scored 21 of his 28 total points in the second half alone and none bigger than a layup at the 7:38 mark remaining in the second half giving Marquette its first lead of the game.
During a media availability session earlier in the week, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams was critical of Gardner’s work ethic recently. According to Williams, "Davante has not been consistent in his work at any point, which contributes on game day. He doesn't work hard enough to be consistent. I'm not mad at him. I tell him that all the time. I wouldn't tell you that without telling him that. He's disappointed in himself. He only way to break out of that is to work.”
Gardner rediscovered his “automatic” free-throw stroke going 10-11 vs. DePaul from the charity stripe along with 9-14 shooting from the field and six rebounds in 35 minutes of playing time. Gardner also becomes the 45th player in program history to eclipse the 1,000 point mark. "I have been slacking a little bit in practice and stuff,” Gardner admitted following the win. "The last two days I’ve been practicing good and I’m back in my rhythm. Since we came back from Christmas break, I’ve been mentally out of it."
DePaul led by as many as 11 points early in the first half as it took the Golden Eagles nearly seven minutes to score its first field goal of the game. Marquette opened the game with five missed shots and five turnovers in the first 12 possessions. During that stretch, DePaul got off to a hot start nailing four 3-pointers. Todd Mayo gave Marquette a huge boost off the bench in transition scoring 6 straight points and trimming the deficit to 30-26 at halftime. DePaul was 7-13 from three point territory in the first half. MU shot 45% (9-20) compared to DePaul’s 34% (11-32), but still found themselves trailing after the first 20 minutes.
Marquette’s midrange and long distance shooting was ice cold in the first half as all 26 points were attributed to 18 scored in the paint and the other 8 coming from the free-throw line. However, a pair of Jake Thomas three-pointers gave Marquette a momentum boost midway through the second half. Marquette closed the game on a 36-16 run after trailing 40-30 with 15:23 left in the second half. The two daggers which allowed Marquette to pull away and grab the victory late were a Todd Mayo three-pointer followed a minute later by a Gardner hook shot plus the foul. Marquette finished 51.3% (20-39) from the field. Jamil Wilson followed Gardner’s terrific scoring effort with 14 points of his own and an 8-9 mark at the free throw line.
[Jamil Wilson had 14pts, 7 reb,4 ast. 2 Bl, 1St]
DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell was displeased with the foul differential. Marquette was 23-31 from the free throw line compared to DePaul who was just 2-4. However, DePaul wasn’t aggressive attacking the basket and rather settled for outside shots. DePaul attempted 23 three-pointers finishing 10/23 (43.5%) from behind the arc. According to Gardner, "In halftime, we drew up a couple plays for me in the post and we got their big men to foul out.” DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin scored a team-high 22 points, which moved him up to sixth on DePaul’s career scoring list with 1,695 points.
Marquette is now 69-44 all-time against DePaul and its 114 contests are the third most all-time against a single opponent. The Golden Eagles have only played Wisconsin (120) and Notre Dame (118) on more occasions. Marquette travels to Xavier on Thursday, January 9th for a 8:00 p.m. CT matchup before returning back home to Milwaukee on Saturday, January 11th at 1:00 p.m. CT hosting Seton Hall.