The Golden Eagles continued their season trend as at least four players scored in double figures – James, McNeal, Lazar Hayward (17 points), and Wesley Matthews (13). This balance could be seen as Marquette dished out 22 assists as everyone seemed to chip in to overwhelm the visiting Eagles (3-9).
The Golden Eagles (9-1) got off to a quick start as they scored off of the opening tip and forced several Coppin State turnovers early on to open up the game on a 10-0 run at the 17:21 mark. During this time, Marquette got a burst of energy from Lawrence Blackledge who made his first start of the season. At the 13:31 mark of the first half Blackledge highlighted his four point, five rebound, two block night by converting a James pass into an ally-op dunk. The Golden Eagles shot 51.9% from the field in the first half and took a 43-24 lead into intermission. James led the way with 10 points.
"It's a conscious decision that the players have to make," said Head Coach Tom Crean about the team starting the game quickly. "They are really establishing that they have a defensive mindset to start the game and it's important that we continue to do that. The defense and the ability to get to the glass will always be with you and this team has to understand that."
Practicing what their coach preaches, the Golden Eagles came out in the second half not being content with their first half accomplishments but rather smelling blood. Marquette led by 16 points at the 17:12 mark of the second half and over the next eight minutes they went on a 22-0 run that blew the game wide open.
"We worked on coming out with same intensity in the second half," James said. "Don't let the game get boring or easy. Don't look at the scoreboard. We need to get better. That's the type of mentality we come up with. Coach paces the sidelines and never stops coaching, so we never stop playing."
This run and the impressive second half showing were made possible by the play of James and McNeal. Not only did the two each score in double figures, but they both also made other key contributions. McNeal finished with six rebounds, six assists, and three steals while James added four rebounds, eight assists, and three steals as both played sound defense.
"The job Dominic James did guarding #22 McKie tonight, who was averaging 19 points a game and didn't get a field goal, (was great)," said Crean.
The Golden Eagles shot a blistering 60.9% from the field in the second half while holding Coppin State to just 18 second half points. Despite many positives to pick from, arguably the most notable play of the night unfolded at the 9:38 mark of the second half. Matthews stole the ball on the defensive end, gave a quick outlet to teammate Maurice Acker, ran the floor, and was rewarded by Acker with a lob that Wesley slammed home giving the Golden Eagles a 68-33 advantage.
Marquette reached its biggest lead of the game with 0:54 left in the contest as walk-on Tommy Brice sank his second consecutive free-throw to make the score 89-39 in Marquette's favor.
Coppin State was led by junior forward Brian Chestnut who scored 13 points and added six rebounds.
On a down note, David Cubillan did not see action tonight as he was nursing a sprained left ankle. However, Coach Crean seemed optimistic about David's outlook for the Golden Eagles next game on December 29th.
Marquette returns to action after Christmas on Saturday, December 29th at 1:00 p.m. CST against Savannah State at the Bradley Center.
**Nick Chmurski is a freshman majoring in Accounting