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MILWAUKEE – Every coach wants his team to shoot more free throws than its opponent.
No. 12 Syracuse failed miserably at it in a 74-71 loss to No. 22 Marquette on Monday night.
Davante Gardner scored a career-high 26 points in a game that further tightened things at the top of the Big East.
Marquette made 29 of 35 free throws to Syracuse going 5 of 7.
"They had a huge disparity on the foul line," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "Some of it was right, some of it I don't know about. But that happens sometimes."
Gardner played only 11 minutes in Marquette's 60-56 loss at Villanova on Saturday, with coach Buzz Williams saying he benched the junior center because "he played really bad."
Gardner was the exact opposite against the Orange, making all seven of his shots and converting 12 of 13 free throws in 33 minutes to move Marquette (20-7, 11-4 Big East) into second place, one-half game behind No. 7 Georgetown.
"He's a good player," Boeheim said. "We did a good job in the first half. I thought we did about the same in the second half. They just went to the foul line every time."
C.J. Fair had 20 points for Syracuse (22-6, 10-5), which has lost three of five and dropped into a tie for fourth with No. 21 Notre Dame.
"We played solid defense but we just let them catch some momentum in the second half and we really didn't convert on offense in the last few minutes like we needed to," Fair said.
Boeheim said his team lost because it couldn't handle Gardner and didn't rebound well, in addition to the free throw disparity.
"We scored enough points tonight, I just think our defense wasn't good enough, especially our rebounding," Boeheim said before scolding reporters for bringing up subjects he felt were questioning his coaching decisions.
"You ought to know by now that if you start to ask me those questions, I'll just laugh at you," he said. "That's all I'll do. Go get your Pulitzer someplace else."
No. 10 Louisville is alone in third, a game behind Georgetown.
Reserve guard Todd Mayo hit two 3-pointers during a decisive 15-2 Marquette run in the second half, and Gardner gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good at 56-55 on an 8-foot jumper in the lane with 5:05 left.
Michael Carter-Williams hit a 3-pointer with 1 second left to pull the Orange within 73-71, but Vander Blue hit a free throw with two-tenths of a second to go. Syracuse didn't get a shot off and the game ended.
Mayo's second 3 made it 59-55 with 3:54 to go, and Junior Cadougan was fouled while attempting a fast-break layup.
Syracuse called time out, and Gardner and teammate Jamil Wilson didn't immediately go to the bench. They tried to clean up sweat in the Syracuse lane. Wilson grabbed a mop with Gardner pointing out the perspiration while Marquette assistant coaches frantically waved for them to leave the cleanup for others and join the huddle.
Cadougan hit two free throws to extend the lead to 61-55 with 3:37 to go.
James Southerland hit two 3-pointers to keep the Orange close in the final 70 seconds, but Marquette made its free throws to hold the lead.
Marquette made 24 of 28 free throws in the second half while Syracuse was 1 of 2.
Cadougan and Wilson both scored 12 points for Marquette, which extended its home winning streak to 24 games, second-longest in the nation.
Southerland scored 15 points and Carter-Williams added 14 for the Orange.
Fair scored 12 points as Syracuse took a 32-29 halftime lead.
Both teams have key games Saturday, with Syracuse hosting Louisville and Marquette hosting Notre Dame.