The Golden Eagles proved that on the floor Friday night after they used a 20-point run to pull away early in a 73-43 victory over Northern Iowa in the nightcap of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
After two free-throws by Pat Hazel at the 11:42 mark of the first half, Dominic James poked the ball away from NIU's Johnny Moran. Moran shoved James out of bounds in an attempt to get the ball back, drawing a foul and the ire of the Marquette players on the floor.
"Maybe the best thing they do is that they love one another," said head coach Buzz Williams of his players. "If they feel like its about to turn into something, they're going to stand up."
After the foul, the Golden Eagles hit three-pointers on four of their next five possessions to extend their lead to 20 points, 28-8. They would score two more times before Kwadzo Ahelegbe stopped the bleeding for NIU with a three with 4:40 to go before half.
"I wouldn't push Dominic," said Williams, who also admitted that his senior guard may have acted his way into the foul call.
Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews caused most of Marquette's first half damage, scoring 10 and nine first half points, respectively, and leading a strong defensive charge. The Golden Eagles held NIU to 33 percent first half shooting and forced 10 turnovers before the break.
"We grew up and matured from a defensive standpoint tonight," said Williams.
Marquette coasted the rest of the way and led by as many as 32 points when the tally reached 67-35 with under four minutes to play. The lead was never below double-digits in the second half.
The Golden Eagles showed a balanced attack on offense, with every scholarship player scoring at least one point. They shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc (11-of-27), dished out 20 assists, and dominated the glass, 42-29.
"They're starting to understand [giving up a good shot for a better shot]," Williams said. "And I think they probably completely understand that tonight."
Matthews once again paced the Marquette offense with 17 points, on 5-of-8 shooting, and seven rebounds. Lazar Hayward added 15 and eight, and McNeal scored 13 while hitting 3-of-4 from long-range.
Ahelegbe led Northern Iowa with 11 points and five assists.
The Golden Eagles play for the unofficial championship of the Chicago Invitational Challenge when they take on Dayton tomorrow at 7:00 PM CST at the Sears Centre.