MILWAUKEE – No 15/15 Marquette used a late first-half run to pull away from visiting Texas Southern in a turbulent 85-68 victory Tuesday night at the Bradley Center.
Jerel McNeal led the Golden Eagles with 20 points, including a stretch where he scored 11 in the final seven minutes of the first half on 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc. McNeal also pitched in eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals on the night.
Marquette (4-0) entered the game as the number-one offense in the Big East, averaging 100.3 points per game, but appeared puzzled early by Texas Sothern's (0-4) zone defense, settling for outside shots and starting 0-of-5 from beyond the arc. After TSU tied the game at the 7:31 mark, Marquette revamped its offense and went on a 24-11 run to end the half, led by the play of McNeal and capped off by a buzzer-beating thirty-footer by Dominic James. Marquette ended shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first half while hold TSU scoreless from the three-point line in five attempts.
"I don't think we played near as well from a perfect-possession standpoint as we had," Head Coach Buzz Williams said. "I thought tonight was very spotty on both ends – on offense and on defense."
The Golden Eagles led the entire way, with the largest lead of the game coming at 11:05 in the second half when Lazar Hayward's free throw stretched the margin to 25. However, TSU kept themselves in the game thanks to 64 percent shooting from the field and 66.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the second half. Sloppy play and turnovers also plagued the Golden Eagles, as they committed a season high 19 turnovers and ended the night with a negative assist to turnover ratio for the first time this season.
"We know what we did bad," said Lazar Hayward. "We've all been playing together for three or four years. We don't even have to talk about all the things we did wrong because we already know it."
On the plus side, Hayward contributed 18 points and nine rebounds to go along with James' 11 points and Wes Matthews' 13. Marquette extended their lifetime record to 23-5 when all of "The Big Three" score in double figures.
For the game, Marquette shot a season high 43.5 percent from the three-point line, hitting 10-of-23 shots, but also shot a season low 38.7 percent from the floor overall.
"We weren't attacking," said Hayward. "We weren't being tough. We were more worried about them playing zone and not us doing what was necessary." getting certain gaps, making the extra pass, and just being tough."
After a night where the bench contributed only seven points against UWM, the reserves gave 21 points to the final tally on Tuesday. Maurice Acker led the bench effort, scoring 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc while playing 19 minutes in relief of a foul-plagued James.
"When you see Mo (Maurice Acker) with some pace, we're probably about ready to have a good possession," said Williams. "I thought that Mo was able to put some things together tonight that we need him to have every night."
Deandre Hall led the way for TSU with 19 points, and Ricky Boyles added 14 points to go along with 11 rebounds. The Tigers remain winless on the season, although their 48 percent shooting for the night was a season high against Marquette.
"We can't have success letting teams score the way they did" said Williams.
Marquette wrapped up their opening home stand going undefeated and will continue play in the Chicago Invitational against Northern Iowa at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill. on Friday.