A strong defensive effort led by holding leading scorer Dan Oppland in check propelled Marquette by to a 69-54 win over Valparaiso. A combination of Steve Novak, Ryan Amoroso and Jamil Lott all played excellent defense in holding Oppland, who had averaged 23 points a game coming in, to just 10 points on 4-13 shooting.
"I'm proud of the job we did defensively tonight, especially on Oppland," stated Marquette head coach Tom Crean. "I felt that the most impressive thing of night was the way our guys continued to defend on a high level when the game was stuck as 49-39."
Jerel McNeal continued a strong start to his freshman year, scoring 12 points, and adding 4 assists and 2 steals.
"We did a good job of keeping up pressure defensively and getting stops," said McNeal.
Hampered by foul trouble in first half, Dominic James played a strong second half, finishing the game with 12 points and 4 assists. While frustrated that he had to sit out the last twelve minutes of first half after picking up a questionable second foul, James enjoyed watching his teammates rally to come from a slow start to take a 42-29 halftime lead.
"It excites when my teammates are playing well," added James. "When I came back in second half, I didn't want to go in and mess up the momentum of the team."
One of the key plays of game occurred when James threw down a dunk that came from Jerel McNeal off a well-executed back door cut.
"The reason that play worked was because of the pass from Jerel," said James.
Marquette's bench outscored Crusaders 28-0, with Ryan Amoroso and Dan Fitzgerald scoring 8 points each, and Jamil Lott adding six points
"We have great guys off bench who could be starters anywhere else," stated McNeal.
Although he struggled from field, Wesley Matthews helped key Marquette with a strong overall game, dishing 6 assists and nabbing four steals to go along with his four points.
The strong defensive effort carried the day for Marquette, with second leading Steve Novak uncharacteristically struggling from field, going just 2-8 from field in scoring a season low 8 points.
Tonight's win makes Marquette 6-2 heading into game at Kohl Center versus Wisconsin in the annual rivalry game.
"It's really important on the road to have a mentality that starts with consistency," stated coach Crean. "The game will come down to who executes better under pressure."
Lockdown effort sends Crusaders back home:
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