It was a tale of two halves Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center, and Marquette's (17-2, 6-0) play in each frame was as different as night and day.
The Golden Eagles came out of the gate hot, shooting 56 percent (19-of-34) from the field and 50 percent (4-of-8) from three-point range.
However, in the second half, MU shot an abysmal 32 percent (8-of-25) from the field and did not record a three-point basket in four attempts. Marquette opened up the second half missing 9 of 10 shots and went 4:30 without recording a field goal.
"The first 4 minutes we were terrible," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said of the second half. "We were really out of character on offense and defense at times tonight. We have to be better."
Rebounding became the bottom line of the Golden Eagles' victory. MU out-rebounded DePaul 41-28, a stat that Williams said was "the biggest difference."
Junior forward Lazar Hayward led Marquette with a monster day on the boards. Hayward recorded 17 rebounds while adding 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting, good for his fifth double-double of the season.
"Those guys are a lot bigger than me so I have to use my quickness and I have to do my work early," said Hayward. "A lot of it is anticipation and I think I did a pretty good job with that."
Senior guard Jerel McNeal led the way in scoring for the Golden Eagles, notching 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting. McNeal was also able to snag six of MU's 14 steals. Fellow senior guard Wesley Matthews wasn't far behind, adding 20 points (7-of-15 shooting) of his own.
"[McNeal] is like the in-law that comes over to your house," DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright said. "He has a suitcase and he's not leaving. I love the kid. He's a testament to what college basketball is all about. I wouldn't want him guarding me."
Senior center Dwight Burke also had a solid day for the Golden Eagles. Burke, who hadn't scored in double digits this season, recorded 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. Burke also grabbed 7 rebounds, including 5 on the offensive glass.
"I think Dwight Burke did a really good job," Williams said. "Five offensive rebounds, seven overall – I think it's the best Dwight has played all year long."
Senior guard Dominic James also had an impressive day for MU. James tallied 9 assists, all coming in the first half, and also added 8 points for the Golden Eagles. He electrified the capacity crowd at the Bradley Center several times with slick, no-look passes to his teammates.
"When we get stops, Dominic James could be the best guy in the country to lead the break," Williams said. "It looks like you are watching Sports Center live when you are standing there because he makes plays that you can't teach."
DePaul was led by sophomore forward Dar Tucker. Tucker scored 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting in 39 minutes. Junior guard Will Walker added 17 points of his own and shot 4-of-7 from three-point range.
Marquette's next challenge comes on Monday night when they travel to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish (12-5, 3-3) haven't lost at home at the Joyce Center in 45-straight games.
The last team to defeat them at home: the Marquette Golden Eagles.
"We don't have to temper our excitement, we just have continue to work hard," Williams said. "It's a big game. It's Notre Dame. It's Marquette. We will be ready to play."
Game Notes: Marquette now leads the all-time series against DePaul 63-43 and is 12-3 over their last 15 meetings….. McNeal's 21 points were enough for him to pass Dean Meminger, Damon Key and teammate Dominic James for 7th place on the MU all-time scoring list.