PHILADELPHIA – Marquette's NCAA Tourney hopes for making its 9th straight NCAA Tournament might be…
The two teams battled for most of the game after Marquette dug out of a 15-4 hole early in the first half. Thomas kept the Golden Eagles in reach with his 11 first half points, but the second half was all Gardner, who scored 18 of his 26 points in the final 20 minutes of action.
"It felt great," Gardner said. "We needed that win. We've got to keep fighting to get to where we want to be."
Thomas went 6-for-9 from 3-point range, including a 3-for-3 performance in the second half.
"It's a good feeling and we just got to keep doing it," Thomas said. "Once I make my first, I'm going to keep taking shots."
[Buzz drew up some plays in the dirt to beat Georgetown.]
Williams praised Thomas for being all-in at every moment he's on the floor.
"The thing you can always depend upon with Jake is that he will give you every single ounce of his body, his brain and his heart. He plays to the scouting report perfectly."
Three players scored 59 of Georgetown's 73 points on Thursday night. Markel Starks led the way with 24 points, including a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 19 and Jabril Trawick added 16.
Trailing 72-66 with 3:58 in the game, Smith-Rivera buried a three to cut the deficit in half. Over a minute later, Trawick slammed home two points and suddenly it was a one-point game.
After the teams traded free throws, the game stood at 74-73, Marquette. Gardner missed a shot in the low post and Georgetown grabbed the rebound. Georgetown head coach John Thompson III took a timeout that led to an ill-advised lay-up by Starks that clanked off the rim and was pulled down by Juan Anderson.
The Golden Eagles weren't out of the woods yet. Anderson made the first, but missed the second free throw. Smith-Rivera snagged the long rebound, sped into transition and got a decent lay-up that wouldn't fall and sealed the victory for Marquette.
Bench scoring was a major factor in this game. Marquette got 40 points from its bench (26 from Gardner), while Georgetown only had three. Aside from Gardner and Thomas' performances, the next highest scorer for Marquette was Steve Taylor with eight points, followed by Todd Mayo with six.
"Our best offensive starters play off the bench," Williams said. "We shuffle guys like it's hockey so it doesn't really matter."
The game was filled with positives for the Golden Eagles, but one blemish on the night was their performance from the free-throw line in a foul-filled contest. Marquette went 23-of-34 from the line. This number would have been more pertinent had it lost because the Hoyas made 27 of their 30 free throw attempts.
Williams said that it was crucial to find a way to get back-to-back stops in a game that had 51 fouls called.
"I kept telling our guys, ‘we can't turn this into a free throw contest,'" Williams said. "Somehow we had to get consecutive stops without fouling. We have fouled too much in the last two-and-a-half games, we've got to stop that."
[Juan Anderson had 4 pts and 7 reb in 19min]
The win is a vital one for Marquette. It defeated a Georgetown team that many considered to be on the bubble heading into the matchup and moved the Golden Eagles up to 9-6 in the Big East and a share of third place in the conference with Xavier.
The Golden Eagles hit the road for two games in three days against Villanova and Providence. Even though the team has its back against the wall, Gardner and Thomas both agree that their team isn't done just yet.
"A lot of people said we were out of it, but we never felt that way," Thomas said. "We control our destiny."
"People label as underdogs and we just prove them wrong and work hard like Marquette does," Gardner said.