The youth movement at St. John's played a big part in its loss to Marquette.
God'sgift Achiuwa scored 20 points and Moe Harkless had 17 for St. John's, but it wasn't enough as Davante Gardner had career bests with 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 25 Marquette to an 83-64 win on Wednesday night.
"A young team doesn't understand what kind of bite a team is going to come back at you," said St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap after his team faced its third opponent in the top 15 in its last four games. Dunlap is filling in while head coach Steve Lavin attends to his health.
After staying close in a first half that had 14 lead changes, the Red Storm were outscored 52-32 in the second. Marquette seemed to step up its intensity, while St. John's didn't.
"It was a tale of two halves," Dunlap said. "In the second half, Marquette was grittier. They came after us and we didn't do very well with that. A lot of our turnovers led to easy baskets. Field percentage for them went up."
Marquette shot 67.7 percent in the second half and 55.9 percent overall, while St. John's shot 38.5 percent in the second and 40.7 percent for the game.
"Every game is a learning experience for us," D'Angelo Harrison said. "It's going to be different adversities in each game. We got to grow up now. It's the Big East. There's no excuses."
Harrison, one of four freshmen starters for St. John's (8-8, 2-3 Big East) said the team had prepared for Marquette but hadn't planned on Gardner being such a force.
"Davante Gardner had a really big night," Harrison said. "That was a surprise for us. He hurt us big time, too, on the inside."
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams agreed with Harrison's assessment.
"I thought he was the reason we won the game," Williams said.
After Gardner and Achiuwa countered each other's moves and points in the first half, Gardner toughened his defense on Achiuwa in the second, limiting him to seven points on 3 of 4 shooting.
"He's a big kid. He was getting me in the pick and roll," Gardner said. "That is how he was scoring in the (first half). I just had to face guard him (in the second half)."
Gardner scored 14 of his points in the first half, and Darius Johnson-Odom took over after halftime with 18 of his 20 in the second for the Golden Eagles (13-4, 2-2). Jae Crowder added 11 of 15 in the second.
Gardner, who was 8 of 13 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the free throw line, matched up well against St. John's 6-8 Achiuwa, especially in the first half. They both grabbed four rebounds and Achiuwa had 13 points in the half.
Gardner, Johnson-Odom and Crowder played key roles in the second half as they combined for 37 of the Golden Eagles' 52 points.
"All the credit goes to Marquette for being tough as nails in the second half," Dunlap said.
Marquette returned home for the first time since losing road games at top-ranked Syracuse and then-No. 9 Georgetown last week.
Johnson-Odom's scored seven points and Crowder, who finished with 15, had four during a 15-6 run to open the second half.
Harkless made two free throws to pull the Red Storm to 49-44 with 13:05 to play. That was the closest they could get as Marquette continued to pull away.
"Odom had 18 points in the second half. He obviously stepped it up," Harrison said. "We couldn't contain him."
Harrison, who came in averaging 16 points, had 10 points for St. John's before fouling out with 11:22 left to play.
"When we lost D'Angelo, that hurt us in terms of being able to make a surge and take on that momentum," Dunlap said.
The Red Storm played well in the first half and almost matched Marquette point for point. St. John's led by six points midway through the half and maintained the lead until Gardner's layup and tip-in made it 31-29. Achiuwa answered with a dunk and the Red Storm went into the locker room with a 32-31 lead.