FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) — Marquette center Davante Gardner isn’t one to look at the stat sheet, or the starting lineup.
All he knows is that when his name is called, it’s time for him to play as hard as he can.
Gardner came off the bench early and had 20 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes, leading the No. 25 Golden Eagles to a 76-60 win over the Colonials.
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“Most people think I should start but I don’t really think about starting,” Gardner said.
Marquette will play in the championship game Sunday.
Gardner played 20 minutes in Marquette’s first-round win over Cal State Fullerton, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
“That was the highest number of minutes Davante has ever played,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I thought he was playing at a really high clip.”
Marquette (5-2), with help from Gardner, used a 12-2 run early in the first half to build a double-digit lead, and never trailed.
The Colonials (5-1) tried to stage a couple of comebacks in the second half but never got any closer than 12 points in the second half.
George Washington shot just 35 percent from the floor, and made just 15 of 25 free throws.
Gardner had 14 points — matching his scoring average — when the Golden Eagles built a 21-point halftime lead. Jake Thomas added 13 points for Marquette.
“His minutes have been limited this year,” George Washington coach George Lonergan said. “We came into this game trying to make him run but he played 35 minutes against us.”
The Colonials were led by Kethan Savage and Maurice Creek, who scored 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Gardner led the charge in separating the Golden Eagles from the Colonials in the first half, using his big body to create space in the paint while allowing his outside shooters to get open.
Taking advantage of a miserable start by the Colonials, the Golden Eagles stretched a three-point lead into a 17-4 advantage.
The Colonials (5-1) went into the game with a 52.1 field goal percentage and 47.1 percent on 3-point shots. In the first 20 minutes against Marquette, the Colonials hit only 8 of 28 field goal attempts (28.6 percent), and were 1 for 7 from 3-point range.
Williams put the emphasis for Friday’s game on stopping George Washington’s 3-point attack. He drew an imaginary line, extending the paint by a foot on each side. He then wanted his players to keep the Colonials out of that so-called channel, a move which typically frees up the 3-point shooters.
“Fullerton drove it into the channel 18 times and scored 12 of those times,” Williams said, referring to Thursday’s first-round win over the host Titans. “They were 7 of 11 (on 3-point baskets) at halftime.”
Marquette shot 47 percent from the floor in the first half but was still able to score twice as many field goals as Washington (16-8).
The Golden Eagles got 21 of their first-half points from 3-point range, connecting on 7 of 11 attempts.
“We’ve got to make shots,” Lonergan said. “We’ve been shooting really well this year. Even when we had open looks, we just didn’t make shots.”
The Colonials scored the first two baskets of the second half, but even that wasn’t easy. A short jumper by Maurice Creek was disallowed because of an offensive foul that was called on Kethan Savage. The call was changed to a foul against Marquette’s Juan Anderson, so Creek was awarded his basket.
The foul on Anderson gave the ball back to George Washington, and Isaiah Armwood scored on the possession to cut Marquette’s lead to 46-31.
Creek added a 3-point basket from the top of the key to complete a 9-1 run and get the Colonials to within 13 points.
The closest George Washington got to Marquette was 12 points. That was when McDonald scored on a layup, cutting the Golden Eagles’ advantage to 51-39 with 15:20 left in the game.
Marquette stretched its lead back to 18 points when Gardner scored on a layup midway through the second half.
George Washington continued its effort to get back into the contest, and had a chance to trim its deficit to 10 points with 5:51 remaining in the game, but Patricio Garino missed two free throws.
The Colonials made just 16 of 26 from the free throw line for the game.