WASHINGTON – With the Big East As We Know It coming to an end, Marquette coach Buzz Williams no doubt figured hed seen the last of Syracuses zone for a while.
Hes got a 290-pound player on the bench who cant wait to face it again.
I know about spacing, Davante Gardner said Friday. So theyll 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 Syracuses 2-3 fortress, especially after the way coach Jim Boeheims team dominated Indiana on Thursday night, but Gardner had a standout game against the zone last month and cant wait for the rematch when the third-seeded Golden Eagles (26-8) face the fourth-seeded Orange (29-9) today with a Final Four spot 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.
A pair of good runs in this NCAA tournament has 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, grabbed eight rebounds and scored a career-high 26 points.
But, Gardners confidence aside, Williams has a message for anyone looking for a repeat performance: Get real.
I dont think he will play that well again. And thats only because hes never played that well before or since, the Marquette coach said. So he played incredible. But we do need him to play. If you look at the games where weve won, the games where weve lost, Davante is a big pendulum swing.
Gardners 14 points helped secure Marquettes win over Miami in the round of 16 on Thursday, putting the Golden Eagles closer to their first Final Four appearance since 2003. Syracuse also hasnt been among the last quartet in a decade, when Carmelo Anthony led the Orange to the national title.