MILWAUKEE (AP) — Davante Gardner seemed quite uncomfortable answering questions after the game. It was the complete opposite while he was on the court.
Gardner had career bests with 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 25 Marquette to an 83-64 win over St. John’s on Wednesday night.
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams brought Gardner, an unassuming sophomore, into the media room after the game.
“He’s quiet by nature,” Williams said. “This is good for him.”
Gardner fielded questions but it was pretty clear he would rather be shooting a ball in front of thousands than face the attention from a room full of media.
“I thought he was the reason we won the game,” Williams said about Gardner, who scored 14 of his points in the first half.
Darius Johnson-Odom took over after halftime with 18 of his 20 points coming in the second half for the Golden Eagles (13-4, 2-2 Big East). Jae Crowder added 15 points — 11 after the break.
D’Angelo Harrison, one of the four freshmen starters for St. John’s, said the Red Storm was prepared for Marquette but hadn’t planned on Gardner being such a force.
“Davante Gardner had a really big night,” Harrison said. “That was a surprise for us. He hurt us big time, too, on the inside.”
Gardner, who was 8 of 13 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the free throw line, matched up well against St. John’s 6-8 God’sgift Achiuwa, who had 13 points in the opening half.
Gardner limited Achiuwa to seven points on 3-of-4 shooting in the second half.
“He’s a big kid. He was getting me in the pick and roll. That is how he was scoring in the (first half),” Gardner said. “I just had to face guard him (in the second half).”
Gardner, Johnson-Odom and Crowder played key roles in the second half as they combined for 37 of the Golden Eagles’ 52 points.
“It was a tale of two halves,” said St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap, who is running the team in Steve Lavin’s absence. “In the second half, Marquette was grittier. They came after us and we didn’t do very well with that. A lot of our turnovers led to easy baskets. Field percentage for them went up.”
Marquette shot 67.7 percent in the second half and 55.9 percent overall, while St. John’s shot 38.5 percent in the second and 40.7 percent for the game.
“All the credit goes to Marquette for being tough as nails in the second half,” Dunlap said.
Marquette returned home for the first time since losing road games at top-ranked Syracuse and then-No. 9 Georgetown last week.
Achiuwa scored 20 points and Moe Harkless had 17 for St. John’s (8-8, 2-3), which has faced three opponents in the top 15 in its last four games.
Johnson-Odom’s scored seven points and Crowder, who finished with 15, had four during a 15-6 run to open the second half.
Harkless made two free throws to pull the Red Storm to 49-44 with 13:05 to play. That was the closest they could get as Marquette continued to pull away.
“Odom had 18 points in the second half. He obviously stepped it up,” Harrison said. “We couldn’t contain him.”
Harrison had 10 points for St. John’s before fouling out with 11:22 left to play.
“When we lost D’Angelo, that hurt us in terms of being able to make a surge and take on that momentum,” St. John’s head coach Mike Dunlap said.
The Red Storm played well in the first half and almost matched Marquette point for point. St. John’s led by six points midway through the half and maintained the lead until Gardner’s layup and tip-in made it 31-29. Achiuwa answered with a dunk and the Red Storm went into the locker room with a 32-31 lead.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)