Thanks to the strong inside play of Davante Gardner and Chris Otule, Marquette held off a strong challenge from Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday night to come away with a 64-53 win.
Gardner led Marquette with 18 points and six rebounds, and Otule added 10 points.
It was the second straight strong game for both big players. In Marquette’s opening win against Colgate, the 6-foot-8 Gardner scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, while the 6-11 Otule added 11 points.
“They have been outstanding,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “Tonight, we were really relying upon them. I think that was a positive.”
Williams said his team struggled from long range, making the inside game that much more important.
Marquette shot just 33 percent in the first half and made 22 of 52 shots overall.
“We were inept at times,” Williams said. “When we do what we practice, we’re OK. When we do what we don’t practice, we’re really bad.”
Marquette is likely be more of an inside team than in past seasons because of the size of Gardner and Otule. Williams said that was the first time since he has been coach at Marquette that he got 28 points in a game out of his center position.
“I thought those guys were really good in the paint tonight,” he said.
Otule said he and Gardner were getting the ball in a good position to score.
“Me and Davante can create angles for ourselves and try to play the way we know how to play,” Otule said. “It is much easier to score in the paint. We need to do a better job of getting more paint touches.”
For Southeastern Louisiana, coach Jim Yarbrough said he had “pick his poison” when it came to a game against Marquette.
“Our thought was let’s make it two at a time and make the twos of our choosing, not just give up oodles of layups in transition,” he said. “We wanted to slow them down and make them get back, then fight off the big guys as much as we could.”
Yarbrough said he was encouraged by his team’s play in staying close to Marquette.
“We have to win the Southland Conference, not the Big East,” he said. “We don’t have to beat giant people like this. I’m encouraged. We stepped in with both hands, both feet, got into the game right away and affected the game in a positive way.”
The Golden Eagles (2-0) are still trying to make up for lost time after their season opener against Ohio State on the deck of the USS Yorktown of the coast of Columbia, S.C., was cancelled because of condensation on the court.
The Lions (0-2) refused to go away, trailing 52-50 when Jeffery Ricard scored on a layup with 6:01 remaining. After the teams traded free throws, Gardner went to work for Marquette, scoring two inside hoops to make the score 57-51 with 3:16 left.
Trent Lockett hit two free throws with 2:17 to play for Marquette, and the Golden Eagles clamped down on the defensive end to finally put the game away.
Ricard led Southeastern Louisiana with 11 points, and Brandon Fortenberry added nine.
The Lions came out of the locker room after halftime with a 6-2 run to take a 35-34 lead with 17:42 remaining when Ricard scored on a layup.
But Marquette went on a 14-4 run to grab a 48-39 lead with 9:15 remaining when Junior Cadougan hit a jumper.
Gardner was the key to the run, as he dominated inside, scoring eight points.
Southeastern Louisiana stayed in the game despite poor shooting. It hit just 19 of 54 shots and was outrebounded 39-30.
Lockett added eight points for the Golden Eagles.