Marquette[22-4, 11-2 BE] was led offensively by Wesley Matthews who contributed a game-high 24 points off of seven-of-twelve shooting from the floor and nine-of-twelve shooting from the free throw line. With Matthews' seventh free throw of the contest he surpassed Dean Meminger as the All-Time Leader in Free Throws completed in Marquette history.
"It feels good," noted Matthews when asked about his accomplishment. "I feel like I've been in a little slump lately and I only made three tonight, but it's a great feeling."
Marquette also received notable contributions from the other two members of the Three Amigos who both had stat-stuffing nights. Dominic James put in 13 points, eight assists, seven steals, six rebounds, and four blocks. Jerel McNeal also chipped in 13 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and five assists on the night and surpassed Michael Wilson as the All Time Leader in Steals in Marquette history midway through the second half, a record which had stood for 27 years.
In a physical half resembling all the theatrics of a boxing match Marquette and Seton Hall[14-11, 5-8 BE] exchanged hits with the Pirates throwing the last punch to end the half with a 37-34 lead.
Marquette's best play of the half came off a steal from McNeal at half court who passed it to James who then threw up an alley-op for Matthews who slammed it down. The Golden Eagles were led by Matthew's nine points and James seven points and six assists in the half. The Pirates, led by Paul Gause's ten points, shot 48.3% from the floor and 55.6% from beyond the arc.
Each fight has its halves and Marquette took it to Seton Hall in the deciding half of play. The Golden Eagles opened the second half with a flurry of punches that left the Pirates on their heels. Jerel McNeal stole the ball and drove it the length of the floor to draw the foul and make the basket for the "And 1". Matthews followed up McNeal's right hook with a left of his own, flushing the ball on the fast break to ignite the crowd and extend Marquette's lead to double digits for the first time in the game and complete a 10-0 Golden Eagle run.
"We knew they were going to throw their punch and we knew we just had to keep throwing ours," stated Matthews. "We can't let up at any point in this league."
Marquette's second half performance, while flashy, was a result of renewed defense. After allowing Seton Hall to shoot lights out in the first half of play, Marquette emerged in the second half reborn on the defensive side of the ball, stepping in the passing lanes, forcing turnovers, and starting the fast break for easy baskets on the offensive end.
"Any type of deflection, 50-50 ball, or loose ball, whatever it is we're going to get it and get each other going as a team," Matthews added.
Due largely in-part to this intensity Marquette had what Coach Buzz Williams described as one of their best defensive stretches of the year.
"I thought the second half we were maybe as good as we've been all year long defensively; I think they scored four baskets in the first 16:12 [of the second half]," commented Coach Buzz Williams. "I think that 16:12 was just about as good as we've been defensively and because of that it trends to us being much better offensively."
Quite possibly the oddest play of Marquette's season though came in the second half off a drive from Lazar Hayward who drew the foul from John Garcia and also drew two Technical Fouls from Jeremy Hazell and the Seton Hall bench in the process. The play resulted in six free-throws for the Golden Eagles who connected on five of them to extend the lead. The odd play would be the knockout blow for the Pirates who could not recover from the five point swing.
"It was a disaster for us because the score went from [eight] to [thirteen]," commented Seton Hall Coach Bobby Gonzalez. "After that we just got out of sync and they dictated the rest of the game."
Seton Hall was lead by the Big East's second leading scorer Jeremy Hazell who scored 23 points on six-of-fourteen shooting from beyond the arc. Center John Garcia followed out after only 22 minutes of action which proved pivotal in the deciding second half. Garcia picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls early in the 2nd half and his 5th foul at the 14:25 mark.
Marquette now enters the end-of-the-year gauntlet and will have a day off before preparation begins for its matchup with Georgetown on Saturday.
Game Notes: Marquette outrebounded Seton Hall 41-31 and 16-8 on the offensive glass… Marquette forced 23 Turnovers and 16 steals…Rob Frozena scored his first two career Big East points on a layup in the second half…
Jimmy Butler contributed eight points and seven rebounds off the bench…Coach Buzz Williams got his second Technical Foul of the season, both for saying "Foul"…the team appears to be back to eating hamburgers.