At 290 pounds, Davante Gardner was already a big load for Marquette opponents to handle. With teams still adjusting to the new defensive rules, his impact may become even larger.
Gardner may find himself at the foul line often again Tuesday night when the Golden Eagles try to extend Grambling State's losing streak to 30 games.
Despite his size, the 6-foot-8 Gardner is both agile and nimble, creating shot opportunities from close range after establishing position in the low post. With a defender no longer able to place a hand on a player with the ball without being called for a foul, the early season appears to favor Gardner, a career 79.3 percent free throw shooter.
He set career highs Friday with 15 makes in 20 attempts from the charity stripe as the 17th-ranked Golden Eagles grinded their way to a 63-56 win over Southern. Gardner also made 5 of 7 from the field and finished with 25 points - one off his career high - as Marquette made 33 of its school-record 53 free throws for the game.
''He's tough,'' Southern coach Roman Banks said. ''He can score in a lot of different ways, but he really passed the ball well out of double-teams tonight, too. With the new rules, it's even harder to defend him.''
The difficulties of guarding a wide body in the paint were painfully apparent for Grambling State, which failed to contain DePaul freshman Thomas Hamilton IV - who is 6-10, 284 pounds and had a double-double in the first half - in a 96-58 road loss Saturday to open its season. A'Torri Shine had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Tigers, whose 29-game skid is seventh all-time among Division I teams and one shy of tying Savannah State for sixth.
Senior Steven Danridge, who is 6-8, 260 pounds and likely will match up against Gardner, fouled out after just 16 minutes Saturday and finished with two points and two rebounds. Freshmen Richard Freeman and Windale Glinton are Grambling's only other players taller than 6-6, and the 6-8 Freeman is a swingman.
Helping Gardner on the perimeter as Marquette seeks a 27th consecutive home win will be Todd Mayo, who contributed 20 points and five rebounds while going 8 of 11 from the foul line. The younger brother of Bucks guard O.J. Mayo, Todd averaged only 5.3 points last season and missed the first semester due to academics.
''He made a couple of really good defensive plays tonight,'' Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams said of Mayo. ''And we don't necessarily need him to make steals, we just need him to be very sound in what we're doing as a team defensively. To his credit, he's worked really hard at doing that. And so has Davante, for that matter.''
Marquette's run at home is the second-longest active streak in Division I to South Dakota State, which has won 30 straight. The Golden Eagles also host 10th-ranked Ohio State on Saturday as part of a season-opening four-game homestand.
The Golden Eagles have won all three meetings with Grambling State by an average of 31.0 points.
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