MILWAUKEE -- Marquette's 49-48 victory over No. 15 Georgetown on Saturday was hardly one worthy of "instant classic" status, but in the Big East Conference, Buzz Williams will take it.
The Golden Eagles, fresh off an overtime nail-biter against Connecticut in the conference opener Tuesday, came down to the wire again, sealing the victory with two free throws by Davante Gardner with 8.3 seconds left.
Gardner, coming off the bench, finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. Vander Blue also had 12 points, and Trent Lockett led the team with 10 boards.
Marquette struggled from the field, shooting 36.4 percent and making just 4 of 17 three-pointers. But the Golden Eagles went 13 of 18 from the free-throw line while Georgetown went 7 of 12, which proved to be the difference. Gardner, the team leader with an .847 free-throw percentage coming into the game, scored eight of his points at the line, on 10 shots.
"I'm kind of upset he missed two free throws," Williams joked. "But we made 16 baskets, they made 18. For the game, we were very similar. But us going 13 of 18 and them going 7 of 12 ... those six points are gigantic.
"We stayed at five team fouls forever in the first half, and I told our guys that we had to get more paint touches, we had to get below the free-throw line and get into the bonus."
Marquette was also strong on the boards, holding a 35-26 advantage.
"We had a really strong presence on both ends of the floor," Williams said. "If I only had one answer (as to how Marquette won), I would say it was on the glass."
Playing their conference opener, the Hoyas (10-2, 0-1) struggled to score, shooting 39 percent and making just 5 of 15 three-pointers. Markel Starks led them with 18 points, and Greg Whittington and Otto Porter added 13 each. Only one other player, Mikael Hopkins, scored for Georgetown. Hopkins finished with four points.
"We had our opportunities; we just didn't convert," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.
A slow, plodding and often sloppy affair picked up the pace in the second half and came down to the final seconds.
Georgetown tied the game with 2:08 left when Starks deflected Blue's shot and took it down the court for an easy layup. Marquette took the lead back on the next possession when Gardner made the first of two free throws.
With just under a minute to play, Starks drove to the basket but was blocked out of bounds by Lockett. The Hoyas called timeout and found Starks on the inbound, but the pass bounced off his foot and out of bounds, giving Marquette the ball with 57.7 seconds to play.
Blue had just six seconds left on the shot clock when he was called for an offensive foul with 24.6 left. The Hoyas had little trouble crossing mid-court against Marquette's full-court pressure, but Starks' three-point attempt rimmed out, and on the next possession, Nate Lubick was called for the foul, putting Gardner on the line for his big free throws.
The Hoyas had one last chance after Lockett was called for a foul on Whittington's three-point attempt with 2.3 left.
"I thought he was going for two," Lockett said. "My man kind of slipped past me. I tried to jump at him, and he jumped forward when he shot, and it was all bad from there."
Whittington hit his first two but missed the third after Marquette called a timeout.
"God was on my side," Lockett said. "The way he stepped up and made those first two, I wasn't confident that he'd miss the last one."
The teams shot 4 of 25 to open the game and Marquette, thanks to a free throw, held a 5-4 lead midway through the first half. Blue hit a three as the shot clock expired, making it an 8-4 game with 9:44 left.
The cold shooting continued and Marquette led 20-19 at halftime.
After the break, the shooting improved greatly, but the Golden Eagles maintained their slight advantage, going ahead by five after two Gardner free throws with 13:42 to play. Georgetown stayed close, though, never getting behind by more than a possession. That set the stage for the final push.
NOTES: Marquette has won 18 straight home games, the sixth-longest active streak in the nation. ... Williams returned to the sideline after serving a one-game suspension against Connecticut on Tuesday in Marquette's Big East opener. ... Georgetown has won three of the last five meetings with Marquette. The series is tied 7-7. ... Coming into the game, the Hoyas had held opponents to an average of 54.7 points per game this season, the best among Big East teams and No. 9 nationally.