ROSEMONT, Ill. – Jerel McNeal sure enjoyed his homecoming to Chicago on Tuesday night, as Marquette rode a hot start to a 76-61 victory over DePaul.
The Country Club Hills, Ill. native started off red-hot from the field, hitting his first five shots, including four from three-point range. McNeal finished with 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting, six assists, four rebounds and five steals. The most impressive might have been the All-American candidate's 5 blocks, a career high.
"If I could come up with a few more adjectives I could," head coach Buzz Williams said. "I think he's playing with an unbelievable chip on his shoulder. That's why his line looks the way that it does. He's playing maybe as good as he can on every single possession."
Marquette jumped out to a 31-14 lead early before the Blue Demons fought back with a 21-7 run that spanned eight minutes.
I thought we were really good the first 8 minutes," Williams said, "and I thought the next 12 minutes DePaul was perfect and we were as bad as you could possibly get."
But in the second half, Marquette came out with six straight fast break points, and pushed the lead to double digits. The Golden Eagles scored 16 points off fast breaks, compared to the Blue Demons zero.
"They're the quickest team [we've played] by far," junior Will Walker said. "If you don't get back [on defense], they're going to be right on you."
Walker led DePaul with a career-high 30 points and matched a career high with five three-pointers, including three in a span of 1:33.
Senior guard Wesley Matthews played a very efficient game on the offensive end, shooting 8-of-10 from the field for 20 points and tied for the team lead with six boards.
Dominic James, who had a quiet second half, scored 13 in the second half.
"In the second half I thought he was perfect," Williams said.
The Golden Eagles will travel to sunny Tampa to play USF on Friday night. Marquette will try to become the first team to double-digit wins in Big East conference play.
Game Notes:Marquette extended its winning streak to 12 games…Marquette is 30-6 when the "Three Amigos" finish in double figures…Dominic James passed the 600-assist plateau in the first half.