MILWAUKEE – The Golden Eagles exploded in the first half and never looked back as they cruised to an 84-50 victory over Big East opponent Cincinnati. Capitalizing on blistering shooting from Jerel McNeal (7-of-7 from 3-point range), Marquette went on a 31-13 run to close out the first half after trailing 14-10.
"I don't know if anyone was going to beat them today", quipped Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin.
The Golden Eagles continued their torrid pace in the in the second half. Marquette jumped out on a 27-9 run in the first ten minutes, burying the Bearcats early. In building on the first half performance, Lazar Hayward and McNeal dialed up multiple threes to lead Marquette to 15-of-25 shooting from beyond the arc for the game. Marquette's 15 threes tied a program record set during the 94-95 season.
McNeal paced the Golden Eagles with 26 points, tying a season high. Wes Mathews chipped in 17 and Lazar Hayward added 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 4 three-pointers. Dominic James continued to show extraordinary floor presence with 9 points, 4 assists and no turnovers on top of his stellar defensive performance. Buzz Williams noted after the game that James has not gained nearly the attention he deserves for his defensive play this year.
Several bright spots emerged in this game beyond the hot shooting of the Golden Eagles. Defensively, Marquette grounded Cincinnati's offense to a virtual halt. The Bearcats had been averaging 72 points per game prior to Sunday's contest.
In addition, Chris Otule, Patrick Hazel, and Dwight Burke played well inside. Otule sparked the first half run with a block that led to a Mathews three. Marquette limited Cincinnati to only 3 offensive rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
"It was the difference in the game", noted coach Williams, referring to Marquett'se control of the paint.
The Golden Eagles now look forward to a rugged Big East schedule, where they are at Rutgers on January 7 and back home to take on West Virginia on January 10. Buzz Williams remarked that the Golden Eagles, "had their 3rd best practice of the year" prior to today's game.
"I believe confidence comes from hard work", said Williams.
Marquette looks to build on that confidence as the season continues.
Post Game Notes: • Marquette improves to 2-0 in BIG EAST conference play for the first time since joining the league. With the win the Golden Eagles also improve to 11-0 at the Bradley Center this season. • Marquette's 15 three-point baskets are a program record, tying the 15 recorded against Penn State (March, 27, 1995) and Farleigh Dickenson (December 6, 1994). • Jerel McNeal set an MU record with his 7-of-7 performance from behind the three point line. The previous best was 5-of5, recorded by four other players. • McNeal's 26 points tied a season high recorded in the victory over Wisconsin (December 6, 2008). • With Wesley Matthew's 17 points he has passed Terry Rand and moved into 21st place on the all time MU scoring list. Matthews currently has 1,318 career points.