It was a game of runs for the Golden Eagles as they utilized multiple scoring outbursts to overpower the Mastadons.
"We don't want to have anything average about our performance," said Head Coach Tom Crean. "We are not always going to play great, I don't think anybody is, but we didn't want to have average intensity. I think we played really hard and we were really able to execute the game plan in the second half."
The biggest Marquette run came after IPFW scored on its first three possessions to open the second half. This 8-2 run by the Mastadons cut the lead to 31-26 at the 18:31 mark, the closest margin since a 15-10 score with 10:21 in the first half. The Golden Eagles answered with a 14-2 run sparked by back-to-back steals. The highlight of the run came off a James steal and behind-the-back pass to Hayward for a one-handed dunk at the 16:50 mark. Marquette finished with a total of seven steals, led by Maurice Acker's three.
"It was really important because it was all built on the defense," Crean said of the run. "When you're playing games like this you don't want to take steps backward. Our team got juiced up and we were able to stay in lock-down mode for the most part."
The game was never in question after the 14-2 run and the Golden Eagle lead never fell below 12 points the rest of the game. During this stretch, James brought the home crowd to its feet by converting a four-point play, as he made a three point basket, was fouled and sank the free throw with 8:46 left. James finished with six assists, two steals, and three rebounds. "You should see him in practice," Matthews said of James. "He does that kind of stuff all the time. He's a great player and we're going to follow him as far as he can carry us."
However, the game started out slowly for Matthews and the Golden Eagles. Matthews began just 2-10 from the field and Marquette had only 13 points on the scoreboard at the 10:30 mark in the first half. The Golden Eagles shot only 36.4% from the field for the half, but managed to hold IPFW to a meager 24.2%. Marquette held a 29-18 halftime advantage, thanks in part to Acker's defense and seven points apiece from James and Hayward.
But Marquette's intensity, coupled with a balanced offensive attack, prevailed in the end. As in their previous eight games, at least four Golden Eagles scored in double figures – James, Matthews, Hayward (14), and David Cubillan (11). Marquette also dominated the boards, 50-36, led by Matthews' season high nine rebounds. Hayward pulled down eight boards and McNeal added seven.
"He's playing so hard, he gets so much done on both ends," Crean said of Matthews. "And tonight he played very efficient basketball. He attacked; he played the entire game without a turnover."
Marquette returns to action Friday at 7:30 p.m. CST at the Bradley Center against Coppin State.
**Nick Chmurski is a freshman majoring in finance
**Jeff Wolf is a senior majoring in Advertising. Jeff is also the Head Student writer for MarquetteHoops.com and the Assistant SPorts Director for arquette Radio