ROSEMONT, Ill. — Forward Davante Gardner scored seven of his team-high 22 points in overtime on Saturday, but Marquette’s unsung hero was center Chris Otule.
Scoreless after 20 minutes, Otule collected 12 points and four rebounds in the second half and overtime as Marquette held off DePaul for a 96-94 Big East victory at Allstate Arena.
“I thought Chris was the difference. He was absolutely huge,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “Chris was phenomenal, near-perfect offensively, to start the second half.”
The Golden Eagles senior went 5-for-6 from the field in the second half and added a layup to open overtime.
“Today they made a point to pass it in to me more,” Otule said. “Whenever I play, I try to make myself a presence in the lane and we just connected today.”
Gardner, meanwhile, made two free throws with 32 seconds left in overtime to give the Golden Eagles the winning points as they opened a 95-89 lead.
Blue Demons guard Durrell McDonald cut the deficit to 95-92 with a baseline 3-pointer with 18 seconds showing, but Golden Eagles guard Derrick Wilson put the game out of reach at 96-92 by making a free throw with 13 seconds left.
DePaul guard Brandon Young scored on an uncontested layup seven seconds later, but a late steal and potential game-winning buzzer-beater by McDonald fell short.
Marquette (16-11, 8-6) has won four of its last five. DePaul (10-18, 2-13) dropped its season-high 10th straight.
Guard Todd Mayo had 19 points and forward Jamil Wilson 18 for the Golden Eagles.
Young scored a game- and season-high 29 points, freshman guard Billy Garrett had a career-high 26 and McDonald added 13 for DePaul.
Gardner gave Marquette an 80-79 lead when he hit the first of two free throws with 30 seconds left in regulation. He missed the second and DePaul regained possession and called a timeout with 22 seconds left.
Garrett drove the lane but missed his shot with 8.1 seconds left and fouled Wilson, who pushed the lead to 82-79 with two free throws. Garrett replied with a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds showing to force an 82-82 deadlock and overtime.
“Everybody was focused on the task at hand and it showed out there at the end of regulation,” Garrett said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to continue it and come out with a victory.”
DePaul shook off 0-for-10 shooting from the field at the start to make a game of it, trailing 44-41 at halftime.
“In the body of the game, we actually outplayed them, but we didn’t start well once again today and we didn’t start well in the second half,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “We didn’t finish them off with free throws and taking care of the basketball.”
The Blue Demons went without a field goal for the first 6:24 and Marquette opened an 8-1 lead. DePaul broke the drought with Garrett’s 3-pointer at the 13:26 mark. The Golden Eagles also shot poorly during the same span, going 3-for-8.
Young led the charge back, scoring 10 of DePaul’s next 16 points as it battled to a 20-20 tie with 8:02 left.
But Marquette went back ahead on Gardner’s three-point play and led by as many as seven points the rest of the way. Young scored a game-high 13 first-half points and Gardner had 12.
The Golden Eagles quickly pushed the lead into double digits with eight straight points for a 52-41 lead in a three-minute span to start the second half and extended the margin to 15 at 58-42 with 15:01 left.
But DePaul slowly chipped away from there, using five 3-pointers — including two apiece from Garrett and McDonald — and nine free throws to creep back into contention.
The Blue Demons tied it 77-77 on Young’s driving layup with 1:43 left in regulation. Garrett’s layup 56 seconds later forced a 79-79 tie.
NOTES: Saturday’s game opened a final Big East stretch for DePaul, with three of its final home games at Allstate Arena. … The 114th meeting between the programs is the longest of any series for DePaul and No. 2 all time for Marquette (the Golden Eagles have played Wisconsin 120 times). Marquette leads 70-44 and had won 12 of the last 14 meetings.
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