In the team's first game since losing at Madison, Marquette made the necessary halftime adjustments to beat San Francisco. The Golden Eagles trailed by two at the break to the Don's, but kicked the offense into high gear in the second to win 61-48.
Marquette was led by senior Steve Novak and freshman Jerel McNeal who scored 22 and 15 respectively. Novak went 6-8 from beyond the arc and added 6 rebounds as well. The 15 points for McNeal tied his career high. Sophomore forward Ryan Amoroso contributed 8 points and 8 rebounds in his first start of the season.
"I think that it is just going to be one of those seasons where every guy is going to have that given night where they have to step up because the other guys aren't making shot. I was really just trying to let the game come to me and do whatever I could to give us a lift," said McNeal.
The MU defense came out strong and only got better as the game progressed. The 20 field goals allowed by Marquette was a season low as was holding their opponent to 48 points for the game. The Golden Eagles recorded all seven of their steals in the second half on their way to forcing 13 second-half turnovers that resulted in 14 Marquette points. They were also able to hold the Don's to 1 –13 from beyond the arc, far worse than San Francisco's season average of 36.0% from distance.
The only problem that Marquette seemed to have on defense was guarding the lane. San Francisco's big men scored 18 of their team's 28 first half points from inside the paint. This was more limited in the second half as Marquette adjusted to the Don's style.
"Once we figured out that we needed to stop letting them get so many touches we did a good job on them in the post. There is no question that we were very well prepared for it, we just got away from it at times," said Steve Novak.
The Golden Eagles got off to a slow start offensively, shooting only 26.5% from the field in the first half including several short shots off of dribble penetration that just didn't fall. But they turned it around in the second frame and made 55.6% of their shots including 4 of 7 from three-point land. They were also able to find each other better after the break and tallied seven of their 11 assists in the second session.
"The key to the offense was our ability to reverse the ball. Even though we missed 10, 11, maybe 12 close shots in the first half, we were getting [to the rim]. It was just a matter of time until our guys made those plays," said head coach Tom Crean.
Surprisingly freshman guard Dominic James, who ranks 18th in scoring average among all Big East players with 14.4 ppg, was unable to score from the field and earned his only four points from the charity stripe towards the end of the game.
This is not reason to worry according to Tom Crean. He saw the signs of a great player in the midst of a lack-luster performance.
"There are going to be days like that when your guys aren't going to make shots. This is the sign of a guy who is going to be a great point guard; he didn't let it affect the other players. Dominic continued to make everyone else better," Crean said of James.
San Francisco marked the first in a six-game home stand for Marquette that lasts through January 7, 2006. Oakland visits the Bradley Center on December 19th at 5:30 p.m.
Halftime Adjustments boost Marq over SF,61-48
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