Davante Gardner dunks in a Marquette game.
Davante Gardner dunks in a Marquette game.

No Final Four

Published 12:15am Thursday, April 4, 2013

Even in defeat, Gardner leads at Marquette

Marquette University advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time in 10 years, and it earned a share of the Big East Conference regular season championship for the first time ever.

In acknowledgment of his major role in these accomplishments, junior forward and former King’s Fork High School star Davante Gardner received several honors.

The Golden Eagles were eliminated from the tournament on Saturday in the Elite Eight, but Gardner’s performances in Marquette’s four tourney games resulted in his being named NCAA Championship All-East Region. For averaging 14 points and six rebounds in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games this past weekend, he was named the GoMarquette.com Student-Athlete of the Week.

Gardner was the second-leading scorer on the Golden Eagles (26-9) this season, coming off the bench, and he was named the Big East Conference Sixth Man of the Year.

“It’s been good getting these,” Gardner said of the honors. “I’ve been working to try to help the team out.”

Though he hadn’t set a goal to earn titles for himself, Gardner said, receiving the Sixth Man award was particularly satisfying to him.

“That means I’m a threat coming off the bench,” he said. “I could have been in the running for the Sixth Man of the country, but we lost out early.”

Playing against the vaunted No.2-seeded University of Miami in the Sweet 16, Gardner helped Marquette dominate the Hurricanes for a 71-61 win. He shot 5-of-7 from the field and was perfect from the line for 14 points.

Gardner said what the Golden Eagles were able to do successfully against Miami was “just to stop (Shane) Larkin, slow him down. And Junior (Cadougan) did a great job on locking him up and making it hard for him.”

Then, Gardner diagnosed what happened when Marquette lost 55-39 to Big East rival and No. 4-seeded Syracuse University in the Elite Eight.

“We’re used to playing against them, so I guess we wanted to play against them, but we just couldn’t knock down the open shots like we did the first time we played them during the regular season,” Gardner said.

This did not keep him from leading the team in scoring with Vander Blue. Gardner logged 14 points and also grabbed a team-high eight boards.

He related what reaching a new level of personal and team success does for his confidence entering his final year next season.

“I feel like I’m way better than I was when I first got here,” he said. “I’m feeling a lot of confidence going into my senior year, and I’ve (gotten to) the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and (earned) Sixth Man, so that helps me a lot.”

He shared his picks to advance out of the Final Four this weekend and earn a berth in the national championship game.

“I’m looking for Louisville and Syracuse to win, but mostly, probably, Louisville because they deserve it, they’re a hard-playing team,” he said. “They have all the key components in every position, so I’m looking for them to win with Syracuse.”

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