MILWAUKEE – Jerel McNeal led a strong second half charge as Marquette beat Rutgers 78-48 Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center in front of a crowd of 18,901. McNeal finished with 14 pts,7 rebs,7 assists,5 steals and 3 blocks. It was the 8th time in his career that he recorded 5 or more steals, and after this effort he sits just 5 back of Doc Rivers for third on MU's all-time steals list.
"When he's in that zone with that emotion, he's so locked into what he needs to do," said teammate Wesley Matthews. "Then it's our job to try and match it. When he's deflecting the ball, we come scoop it up and we're off to the races."
Three other Golden Eagles finished in double figures – Lazar Hayward (15 points), Dominic James (13 points), and Matthews (12 points) – as Marquette used a huge second half to pull away from the Scarlet Knights.
After a very close first half, the Golden Eagles (20-6, 10-5 Big East) outscored Rutgers (10-18, 2-13 Big East) 43-19 after the break. James, who went down with a knee injury at the 3:04 mark of the first half, came back in the second half and was instrumental in a 6-0 Marquette run right out of the gate, scoring the first basket and assisting on the next two. This early play set the tone for the rest of the second half, as the Golden Eagles were able to go on a 28-9 run over a twelve minute stretch to blow the game wide open.
"They came out with a great intensity in the second half," said Rutgers Head Coach Fred Hill. "They came out, and to their credit, did a great job, and we didn't match their intensity."
Marquette also shot 60 percent from the field in the second half while holding Rutgers to just 26.1 percent shooting. The Golden Eagles also scored 26 points off of 23 Rutgers turnovers and outscored the Scarlet Knights 31-4 in transition.
"Our best offense is our defense," said Matthews. "A lot of teams try to say that, but we are a team that actually shows it."
This second half saw some of the most exciting transition offense of the year for Marquette. Among several remarkable plays was an ally-op dunk by Hayward at the 6:35 mark. Off a Dwight Burke block, Maurice Acker quickly brought the ball up and found Hayward on the left baseline, bringing the crowd to its feet.
In the first half, Rutgers was able to hang with Marquette, scoring on their five possessions and shooting 52 percent from the field. The Scarlet Knights trailed by only two points with 4:15 left in the first half, and were down 35-29 at the break.
Freshman guard Corey Chandler scored eight of his team-high 12 points before halftime for Rutgers. J.R. Inman also scored 11 points for the Scarlet Knights.
Marquette set a season record by holding Rutgers to only two free-throw attempts for the game.
"The accountability that the guys have for one another is what separates this team," said Head Coach Tom Crean. "When the players can take ownership away from the coaches, that's the biggest thing that can happen in the months of February and March and that is what these guys are doing."
Marquette next takes the court against Villanova Monday night in Philadelphia. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. CST.
McNeal, MU roll past Rutgers 78-48
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