McNeal shot 8-11 from the field and added four rebounds and three steals. He also put the Golden Eagles ahead for good, at 50-48, with a layup at the 11:33 mark of the second half.
"He's just so energetic," said sophomore Lazar Hayward. "Defensively, offensively, passing the ball, getting deflections. Jerel is a hard worker and a lot of us feed off of him."
Despite McNeal's great individual effort, the Marquette attack remained balanced as four players scored in double figures. Dominic James (12 points), Hayward (11), and Wesley Matthews (10) all made key contributions down the stretch to help put away a pesky IUPUI team.
Matthews set the tempo and brought the crowd to its feet early with a dunk at the 19:02 mark of the first half. Despite their ability to create turnovers and get up the court quickly, the Golden Eagles didn't lead until the 11:47 mark when McNeal converted a lay up off of a steal to make the score 15-14.
The Jaguars were hot from the field early, but great defensive intensity by Marquette frustrated them into taking tough shots and turning the ball over. Marquette forced 15 turnovers in the game, and used this intensity to bolster its run and close the half with a 39-31 lead. Jaguars guard Gary Patterson led all scorers at half with 11 points.
Seconds into the second half, James came up with a steal and a lay-in to give Marquette a 41-31 lead. However over the next seven minutes, IUPUI went on a 17-4 run to open up a 48-43 lead. This charge was led by junior guard George Hill, who scored seven of his 19 points during this stretch.
"We just have to learn when we get somebody down we've got to keep them down," said Head Coach Tom Crean. "We broke our lead in the second half and we just let them come right back and we've got to learn to stop that."
Marquette battled back to open up a ten point lead, 66-56 at the 3:58 mark, and the Golden Eagles held on after that to record their first victory of the 2007-2008 campaign.
"Any time you play, you don't necessarily want the games to be close," said Crean. "But when you go back and try to build your experience early in the season, to have a close game is a positive."
Marquette dominated IUPUI in bench scoring, holding a 26-1 advantage. They also outscored the Jaguars in the paint 32-16.
Marquette will face Utah Valley State on Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the Bradley Center.
**Nick Chmurski is a frehman majoring in Finance.