Marquette, Syracuse hold another Big East farewell
TribLIVE Sports Videos
WASHINGTON — With the Big East As We Know It coming to an end, Marquette coach Buzz Williams no doubt figured he'd seen the last of Syracuse's zone for a while.
He's a got a 290-pound player on the bench who can't wait to face it again.
“I know about spacing,” Davante Gardner said. “So they'll change it up and try to lock me down.”
It takes a bit of bravado for a backup junior forward to have a “bring it on” attitude over Syracuse's 2-3 fortress, especially after the way coach Jim Boeheim's team dominated Indiana on Thursday night, but Gardner had a standout game against the zone last month and can't wait for the rematch when the third-seeded Golden Eagles (26-8) face the fourth-seeded Orange (29-9) on Saturday with a berth in the Final Four on the line.
“I love playing against athletic guys,” Gardner said. “Because they think they can just stop me. But I use my weight to push them around.”
The Big East is turning into the league that just won't die. Syracuse is leaving for the ACC in the fall, and Marquette is one of the so-called “Catholic 7” basketball-centric schools breaking away from the pack and taking the Big East name with it. A pair of good runs in this NCAA Tournament have created one more reunion, with the Orange seeking to avenge a 74-71 loss in Milwaukee on Feb. 25.
The star that night was Gardner, who went 7 for 7 from the field, 12 for 13 from the line and scored a career-high 26 points.
“He got a lot of offensive rebounds, they found him in the lane, and he made good plays,” Boeheim said. “To me he's a very good player down there, and we obviously have to do better with him, for sure.”
But, Gardner's confidence aside, Williams has a message for anyone looking for a repeat performance: Get real.
“I don't think he will play that well again. And that's only because he's never played that well before or since,” the Marquette coach said. “So he played incredible. But we do need him to play.”
Gardner's 14 points helped secure Marquette's win over Miami in the round of 16 Thursday, putting the Golden Eagles closer to their first Final Four appearance since 2003. Syracuse also hasn't been among the last quartet in a decade, when Carmelo Anthony led the Orange to the national title.
Marquette and Syracuse didn't play each other in that Final Four. Their only NCAA Tournament meeting came in 2011, when the Golden Eagles won, 66-62, in the second round.
“I don't want to play Syracuse again,” Williams said. “(People say) ‘Well, you know them and you know their zone.' I know all that. I don't want to play 'em. I would rather play somebody else. But it's part of having so many good teams in our league that go to the NCAA Tournament.”
The matchup gave Boeheim and Williams another chance to wax nostalgic about the conference that has produced 18 Final Four teams in 33 years. Williams referenced some of the big names that made the league, while Boeheim lamented how football has become the driving sport behind conference alignments.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- Not to be left behind, speedy Steelers are on the fast track in NFL
- McKeesport Area teacher fired amid sex scandal returns to school
- 2 held for arraignments in gun case
- Committee to advise Munhall on vacant properties
- East Allegheny teachers maintain strike plans
- Starkey: Bucs still battlin’
- Steelers have plenty of new faces at wide receiver
- Feds to protect 20 coral species
- WPIAL coaches, QBs have concerns about using newly-approved footballs
- Monroeville firefighters hope hot photo calendar will help raise money