MILWAUKEE – Marquette ran out to a 12-1 lead against Western Carolina and cruised to a 94-77 finish Friday night.
While the Golden Eagles now have one game separating them from their Christmas carols, head coach Buzz Williams had a different Dickens metaphor on his mind after the game.
"I thought it was the Tale of Two Halves," said Williams. "Our first half was probably as good as it's been all year on both ends of the floor. In the second half we were not very good and our mentality was poor coming out of the half."
In the first half, Marquette shot a blistering 63 percent from the field including 73 percent (8-of-11) on three pointers. The Golden Eagles held the Catamounts to 33 percent shooting in the first half.
"We had 24 assists on 29 baskets, that's atypical because our team scores most of its baskets off penetration and we don't get that many assists," said Williams. "When you make shots like we did in the first half it makes everybody look good."
In the second half, it was the Catamounts turn to gun from downtown as they hit nine-of-thirteen three-point shots including a four-point play with 2:04 to go in the game.
"I think we just have to get better at winning the way we want to play," said Lazar Hayward. "That mean's doing all the right things no matter what the time and score [are]."
Hayward led the Golden Eagles with a career-high 27 points. Jerel McNeal kicked in with 19 points, including 5-of-6 shooting from long distance. Wes Mathews was also reached double figures, with 18 points.
First-year players Chris Otule and Joe Fulce saw their first action of the regular season after missing time with foot and knee injuries, respectively. Each player logged 11 minutes, with Fulce scoring two points and Otule scoring three.
"They are not ready to play," said Williams. "They haven't earned the right to play. But from a logistical standpoint – as it relates to the timing of our games over the next two weeks – I think it is important to figure out how Joe can play five minutes a game in January and how Chris can play five or six minutes a game in January.
"Whether they will be able to get to that point and be effective, I don't know."
GAME NOTES: Marquette shot a season high 53.7 percent from the field and 64.7 percent from three-point range… Hayward's career night topped his previous high of 25 points, set this season against UWM…The Golden Eagle's 11 made three-point baskets tied a season high…Western Carolina's 13 three-point basket's were the most Marquette has allowed this season.
Alex Jesswein is a freshman majoring in Finance.
Jeff Wolf also contributed to this story.