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McNeal powers Marquette past Morgan State

Dec 23, 2006 - 5:03 AM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Dominic James isn't the only high-profile sophomore in Marquette's backcourt.

Jerel McNeal scored a career-high 25 points to lead No. 21 Marquette to a 77-57 victory over Morgan State.

It was the second strong outing for McNeal, who had 17 points and six steals in Tuesday's win over Oakland.

"Jerel is a great player," teammate Wesley Matthews said. "He is one of the most underrated in the country and he is starting to show out. I am proud of him. He is great on the defensive end and is picking up on offense as well."

A 6-3 guard, McNeal finished 8-of-15 from the floor and made 7-of-8 from the foul line for the Golden Eagles (12-2), who won their third straight game.

"I have been doing the same thing all year long and now the shots are starting to fall," McNeal said. "I am working on the whole team getting better and getting everyone involved. We are a lot better as a team if everyone gets involved on offense and defense."

Marquette, behind 15 first-half points from McNeal, led the entire way and seemed headed for an early blowout before allowing Morgan State (2-8) to score the final six points of the first half for a 39-28 lead at the break.

The Golden Bears closed to 50-42 on a jumper by Jamar Smith with 15:14 to play, but Marquette went on a 15-3 run to open the lead to 20 points at 65-45.

Dan Fitzgerald scored 11 points, including 3-of-4 3-pointers, for the Golden Eagles, who shot 55 percent (29-of-53) and forced 20 turnovers.

McNeal scored in double figures for the 10th straight game and also had four steals to extend his NCAA-leading total to 50.

"It is really anticipation and watching film," McNeal said. "Besides on the ball steals, everything else is really rotation. Everything my teammates do get me steals and they do not get a lot of credit for it. Everything I do is a credit to my team."

Reggie Holmes scored 13 points and Smith and Ronald Timus added 12 apiece for the Golden Bears, who were outscored in the paint, 40-22, despite a 36-27 edge on rebounds.

"Both teams I thought played really hard and I think Todd (Bozeman) does a great job getting Morgan State to play well," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "I thought our guys played well, played at a high level. We had a lot of mix-and-match lineups and were able to get better."

    --- --- -----
    MORGAN ST 28 29 57
    MARQUETTE (21) 39 38 77 FINAL

    Dec 22 10:28 PM

    MORGAN ST 28

    Dec 22 9:25 PM