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Backcourt leads Marquette over Delaware State

Dec 6, 2006 - 3:18 AM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Marquette's backcourt made amends for an awful performance three days earlier.

Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews and Dominic James combined for 44 points to lead No. 20 Marquette to a 65-48 victory over Delaware State.

The Golden Eagles (9-1) were stunned by North Dakota State in the final of their Blue and Gold Classic on Saturday, primarily because of the struggles of Matthews and James, who shot a combined 6-for-26.

It was just the opposite on Tuesday, as Marquette shot 50 percent (23-of-46) from the field and connected on 9-of-14 shots from 3-point range.

"Delaware State always possesses a great challenge whenever it plays," said Marquette coach Tom Crean, who won his 150th game. "They are disciplined and organized. They have played some outstanding games and this was a good one.

"We got many good things out of this game. Our guys did an excellent job and won the hustle game. It was a good, solid win."

The Golden Eagles got an added boost from junior forward Dan Fitzgerald, who made his first start of the season and scored 13 points, including three shots from the arc.

"Making shots started us off early on," said McNeal, who scored 16 points to match his total from Saturday. "They came out in a zone and we did a good job penetrating, moving the ball around and making shots. Penetrating opened everything else up."

Matthews came out with a purpose against the Hornets, who returned all five starters from last season's 21-win team. He hit his first four shots and scored 10 of Marquette's first 12 points in the first four minutes.

McNeal took over late in the half, hitting a 3-pointer and putting down a dunk nine seconds apart to put the Golden Eagles ahead, 31-22, en route to a 32-24 lead at the break.

James added a pair of 3-pointers in a decisive 17-4 second-half run that ballooned the advantage to 58-37 on McNeal's jumper with 9 1/2 minutes remaining. The trio accounted for 44 of those 58 points.

The 6-9 Fitzgerald also contributed seven rebounds to go with his 5-for-7 shooting.

"Dan is growing into his role on this team," Crean said. "The key for him is to be successful on defense and to get rebounds. He can certainly shoot the ball. He has been very consistent for us year."

Roy Bright and Darrin Shine scored 14 points apiece to lead the Hornets (2-7), who shot 34 percent (16-of-47) from the field.

Delaware State was limited to just 16 field goals in the game and connected on just 5-of-21 shots from the arc.

"Defense is what we want to hang our hats on and rebounds," Matthews said. "When you have a rough stretch on offense, you want to rely on defense. It gets you buckets."

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    DELAWARE ST 24 24 48
    MARQUETTE (20) 32 33 65 FINAL

    Dec 5 9:55 PM


    Dec 5 8:54 PM