MILWAUKEE -- Only two days after being called out by his coach for his work ethic, Marquette forward Davante Gardner found himself in the starting lineup for the Golden Eagles' Saturday game against Big East rival DePaul.
Gardner answered the bell, scoring 21 of his career-high 28 points as Marquette rallied in the second half for a 66-56 victory over the Blue Devils at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
"I gave him the start even though he hadn't earned it," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said.
The Big East's 2013 Sixth Man of the Year didn't disagree.
"I had been slacking a little bit in practice, but not the last two days," Gardner said. "Since Christmas break, I had been a little out of it mentally but I feel like I'm back in my rhythm."
Gardner went 9-of-14 from the field but was even more potent at the free throw line, where he made 10-of-11. Those helped keep a cold-shooting Golden Eagles squad from being blown out early.
Marquette went 23-of-31 from the free throw line while DePaul made only 2-of-4.
What the Blue Demons couldn't do from the line they made up for from long distance. They went 10-for-23 on 3-pointers, five of them coming from forward Cleveland Melvin, who finished with 22 points.
Still, 3-point shooting couldn't make up for the free throw disparity or a 38.6 percent effort from the field, leading to a second consecutive conference loss for DePaul, which also turned the ball over 16 times, leading to 18 Marquette points.
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell pointed to those turnovers, 10 in the second half, as a big reason Melvin has held to four points after halftime.
"We shot ourselves in the foot by squandering those possessions," Purnell said. "When do that, you don't have a chance to get him the ball."
After trailing for most of the game, Marquette (9-6) suddenly snapped out of its funk, using a 36-16 run over the final 15:42 to even its Big East record at 1-1.
Forward Jamil Wilson scored 14 points and guard Todd Mayo finished with 10 but it was Gardner, in the starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 28, 2012, who changed the course of the game with 21 points in the second half.
"We drew up a couple of plays to get me the ball in the post and if we could get their big guy to foul out it would be a little easier for us," Gardner said.
The Golden Eagles opened colder than the arctic air covering the Midwest, missing their first five shots and turning the ball over five times while the Blue Demons jumped out to a 14-3 lead.
Gardner broke the Marquette drought on short jumper with 13:16 left in the half, but by the time Marquette's shots finally started falling the Golden Eagles spent the rest of the half chasing the Blue Demons.
DePaul shot 34 percent, but led, 30-26, by going 7-of-13 from beyond the arc.
The Blue Demons used a 10-2 run early in the second half to take a 40-30 lead. After a Marquette timeout, Jake Thomas drained a 3-pointer. Thomas added another from long range at the 12:37 mark to make it a 40-36 game.
After getting a defensive stop, Wilson found Gardner in the lane for an easy layup and the lead was down to two, causing Purnell to call for a timeout.
DePaul finally stopped the Marquette run with a 3-pointer from Robinson, the Blue Demons' first basket in nearly four and a half minutes.
Marquette got the lead down to a point on two free throws by Gardner. After DePaul missed three shots on its next possession, the Golden Eagles took the lead on Gardner's baseline lay-in with 7:30 remaining.
"Our start was good," Purnell said. "The first half, we did a pretty good job defensively, even on Gardner. (In the) second half, we started well but we just let their shooters get going and Gardner gave us all sorts of problems.
"We didn't have an answer for that and turnovers killed us the last seven or eight minutes of the game."
NOTES: Marquette coach Buzz Williams juggled his starting lineup, adding F/C Davante Gardner to the front court and inserting 6-foot-7 senior forward Jamil Wilson at point guard. ... DePaul has played Marquette 113 times, more than any other team. ... The Blue Demons have not won in Milwaukee since Feb. 16, 2000, and have lost 11 of their last 13 overall to Marquette. ... DePaul freshman forward DeJuan Marrero started Saturday in place of freshman forward Tommy Hamilton IV. ... F Davante Gardner became the 45th player in Marquette history to surpass 1,000 points.