MILWAUKEE-Marquette ended their two-game losing streak by defeating St. John's 73-59 on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.
Before the game, Jerel McNeal was honored for becoming the all-time leading scorer in Marquette history after surpassing George Thompson's 40-year-old mark.
McNeal then went on to show the home crowd why he is MU's most prolific scorer, as he tallied a team-high 20 points while also chipping in seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals. In addition to McNeal's effort, the Golden Eagles got 18 points from Lazar Hayward and 14 from Dominic James.
Things weren't all rosy early on for MU this Valentine's Day, however. The Golden Eagles opened the game with a lackluster offensive performance, as they were tied at 24 with the Red Storm at the 2:57 mark of the first half. Marquette then proceeded to go on an 8-0 run to end the half and regain control of the game.
"Those guys have not shot a ball since the game at Villanova," said Head Coach Buzz Williams, alluding to the team's early shooting woes. "That is not punishment, but like I told them, all of us, me specifically as it relates to my career, we all grew up eating hamburgers, and over the last 10 days, we thought we should be eating steaks. We need to get back to eating hamburgers."
The motivated Golden Eagles continued their run into the second half, shooting 57 percent from the field and grabbing their largest lead – 19 points – with 12:36 remaining in the game.
Fueling this surge was an impressive defensive effort, which came on the heels of several days of intense defensive-orientated work in practice. Marquette's implementation of a full court press seemed to cause troubles for St. John's as well. For the game, MU forced 24 Red Storm turnovers and turned them into 24 points.
"We've had a great defensive emphasis throughout practice. We know that's our edge," said James. "We wanted to get back to the fundamentals of defense. We are scoring enough points and shooting a good percentage offensively, but we know that we can't win any games if we let teams dictate what they want to do on offense."
All 12 eligible players saw action for Marquette, the first time the full roster saw the court since January 4. One bench player that MU has relied on particularly of late is sophomore forward Jimmy Butler. Butler continued to fill his role as the sixth man, playing 12 first half minutes due to Wesley Matthew's foul trouble.
"We're starting to get a lot of confidence in Jimmy," said James. "He has an ability to come in and make big plays for us and he does a lot of things that don't show up in the stat sheet. He's providing something off the bench that no one else can."
For the game, Butler scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in 22 minutes of play. Two of his field goals were on pull-up jumpers, a shot he has used infrequently during the season thus far.
St. John's was led by sophomore guard Paris Horne, who scored a game-high 23 points to go along with six assists and seven rebounds.
Marquette will return to action Tuesday night at the Bradley Center against Seton Hall at 7p.m. CST.
GAME NOTES: Marquette and Pittsburgh are the only two squads with at least 10 Big East victories in each of the last four seasons…Hayward was recognized before the game for becoming the 41st Golden Eagle to score 1000 career points, which he did at South Florida…McNeal's five steals puts him three shy of Michael Wilson's career record of 272 steals.