Matthews nearly notched double-double scoring 22 points and grabbing nine rebounds. The Madison native shot 7-8 from the floor and 2-2 from three-point range. Matthews nine rebounds were a season high and helped Marquette gain a 37-31 advantage on the boards for the game.
"A win is a win," Matthews said of Marquette's pedestrian performance against Savannah State. "Are we satisfied? No, but you never want to be satisfied. We are a competitive team so a win like this isn't going to suffice with what we want to do."
The key stretch for the Golden Eagles occurred midway through the second half. The Golden Eagles went on a 10-0 run that began at the 12:27 mark that catapulted a slim three point advantage into a 51-37 lead midway through the second half. Marquette's run included fast break baskets by Dan Fitzgerald and Dominic James, the latter's coming off a signature reverse dunk.
"We have learned a lot from each other," said James, who notched his fifth 20 plus point game. "We have to quit waiting until the second half to turn it up. In conference, you have to play from start to finish to win games."
There were few bright spots for the Golden Eagles in the first 20 minutes. They scored only four points off the break while giving up eight in transition for Savannah. Marquette shot 39% from the field in the first half and committed 11 turnovers, including a line violation on the inbounds with 18 seconds to go that could have allowed the Tigers to take the lead going into the break.
The Golden Eagles even started the second half with senior walk-on Craig Kuphall in the starting lineup. He played for 4:24 before being replaced by Jerel McNeal.
Head Coach Tom Crean dismissed the notion that the team's long break between games affected their slow start on Saturday.
"I think we've practiced really well, so I don't think [the layoff] had anything to do with it. A good long break will come to help us down the road."
Added Matthews, "A mature team brings it night in and night out, and we're still working toward that."
James finished the afternoon with 22 points, although he did not even attempt his first shot until 4:24 remained in the first half. James even shot 8-11 from the charity stripe, an area of concern to this point in the season, and also doled out six assists.
Savannah State was led by Joseph Fledger with 15 points.
The Golden Eagles will start off the New Year by taking on Providence this Thursday in their first Big East contest and only their second true road game of the season.
**Jeff Wolf is a freshman majoring in Advertising.
**Andrew Sharos is a senior majoring in both Secondary Education and History, and is also the Head Student Writer for MarquetteHoops.com.