The balanced Golden Eagle attack was lead by Jerel McNeal with 13 points. Wesley Matthews, Ousmane Barro, and Lazar Hayward all chipped in 12 points each and Maurice Acker scored a season high 10 points while the whole Marquette team saw action and won their third straight game.
"That's a big focus for our team", Matthews said. "We have a lot of people who can score and a lot of people who can get to the basket, so we use that to our advantage. It's hard to stop (us) when you have as many attackers as we do."
Marquette opened the game on a 14-0 run and held the Hornets scoreless until the 14:53 mark in the first half. This run was highlighted by a difficult up and under lay up by Matthews at the 16:56 mark. The Golden Eagles used tenacious defense to force several turnovers during this stretch which they converted into transition points. The Marquette defense forced Sacramento State into 25 turnovers for the game.
"Our guys came out with a great mindset", said Head Coach Tom Crean. "The first main goal we had was to start the game with three stops in a row. We keep track of that on the bench and our goal every game is to get a stop a certain amount of times. We wanted to start the game with that."
Throughout the rest of the first half, the Golden Eagles continued to penetrate the Hornets zone and get to the basket and find open shots. Marquette closed the half up 46-22 with Matthews (10 points) and Hayward (9) leading the way.
The Golden Eagles and Hornets traded baskets for the first few minutes of the second half, before Sacramento State went on a 13-3 run to trim the Marquette advantage to 15 points at the 10:15 mark. During this run the only bit of drama in the game occurred as the Marquette bench was assessed a technical foul after a mix up in front of the Sacramento State bench. Despite this run, it was as close as the Hornets would get the rest of the way.
The superior strength of the Marquette bench could be seen in the second half when they scored the majority of their 32 points. The Golden Eagle bench, led by Barro (12 points) and Acker (10), outscored the Hornet bench by 15 points.
"We don't have to call a lot of plays when the ball is in his (Maurice's) hands", said Crean. "His defensive intensity was very good and I think he, like the rest of the team, got a little bit more riled up after the drama and we started rolling."
The 13,673 fans who braved the wintery elements to come to the game, were brought to their feet late in the second half when Dominic James completed a highlight reel ally-op from Matthews at the 5:21 mark. James turned in a solid performance finishing with 8 points, 4 assists, and a steal in 27 minutes of play.
Marquette reached its biggest lead of the game, 31 points, with 23 seconds left in the second half when walk on Tommy Brice made a free throw to make the score 82-51. Fellow walk on Robert Frozena also tallied a free throw late in the second half as 11 different Golden Eagles scored.
"I just know that it is really fun playing with these guys", Hayward said. "They are great guys. Everyone on this team loves each other and we are great teammates. I think it shows on the court. We all gel really well together. It's really exciting to play."
The Hornets (2-8) were led by junior guard Vinnie McGhee (15 points) and senior forward Justin Williams (10 points).
Marquette returns to action Monday evening at 7 p.m. against IPFW at the Bradley Center.
**Nick Chmurski is a freshman majoring in Finance