Dominic James led the charge for Marquette (14-4, 4-3) with a game high 19 points and three other Golden Eagles scored in double figures – McNeal (15 points), Lazar Hayward (14) and Wesley Matthews (10) – as MU pulled away from the visiting Blue Demons (9-10, 4-3)in the second half.
After a slow first half which didn't see Marquette take its first lead until the 5:50 mark, the Golden Eagles came out in the second half with a burst of energy. Marquette opened with a 9-0 run made possible by dynamic transition offense and great defensive intensity. This run increased the Golden Eagle lead to 11 points, 38-27 at the 16:47 mark, and proved to be the difference in the game. "They had a great effort," said DePaul Head Coach Jerry Wainwright. "They came out with a boost in the second half and we never got over it."
The largest crowd to ever watch a college basketball game in the state of Wisconsin was brought to its feet towards the end of this opening second half run when Matthews finished with a powerful one-handed slam off a James assist. James also added three assists, two rebounds, and a steal in one of his finer performances.
"I thought this was Dominic's best game in his time at Marquette because he was spent every time he came out of the game," said Head Coach Tom Crean.
The second half also saw Marquette diverge away from its recent struggles from behind the arc. After missing their first five three point attempts in the first half, the Golden Eagles rebounded to shoot 6-14 (42.9%) in the second half. David Cubillan made two of these threes and turned in a solid effort with nine points, five assists, three rebounds, and three steals.
Marquette reached its largest advantage, 18 points, at the 3:12 mark of the second half when Hayward made a free throw to finish a three point play making the score 75-57. DePaul however, used a 14-4 run over the final three minutes to pull within eight points of Marquette. This final tally however, was a little closer than the game really was.
The first half was sloppy for both sides as the teams combined for a total of twenty turnovers. Marquette seemed as if they were trying to do too much too fast early on and as a result, the Blue Demons jumped out to 15-8 advantage at the 12:21 mark of the first half. DePaul's early lead came on the heels of several impressive dunks by freshman Dar Tucker. Tucker however, was caught in one of the game's more notable miscues as he missed an uncontested flashy ally-op dunk in transition and then proceeded to miss the layup and foul James. Despite a lackluster first half performance, Marquette found itself with a two point lead, 29-27, going into halftime that they would not relinquish. The Golden Eagles were led by James' 10 points.
Matthews also had a notable performance finishing with four rebounds, four assists, and two steals to go along with his ten points. McNeal's 1000th career point came at the 4:23 mark of the first half when made the first of two free throw attempts.
"Yeah, I hope Wes gets his in a more exciting way than ours," said McNeal referring to how he and James reached the 1000 point milestone.
DePaul was led by senior Draelon Burns and freshman Mac Koshwal who each chipped in 19 points.
Marquette returns to action Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CST at the Bradley Center to face South Florida.