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McNeal stellar from deep as Marquette bombs Cincinnati

Jan 4, 2009 - 11:54 PM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- A sizzling shooting effort secured a first for Marquette on Sunday.

Jerel McNeal scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half as No. 25 Marquette rolled to an 84-50 victory over Cincinnati.

Wesley Matthews had 17 points and Lazar Hayward 16 for the Golden Eagles (13-2, 2-0 Big East), who began 2-0 in the Big East for the first time since joining the conference three seasons ago.

"It feels really good," McNeal said. "It's the first time that we started out 2-0 in our conference season. One of the main things about our team is that we treat every win or loss like coach always says. We have until midnight to enjoy it."

Marquette got another league win due in part to the scoring of McNeal, who had 24 points in Thursday's 79-72 victory over Villanova. In this one, the senior guard was a perfect 7-of-7 on 3-pointers en route to matching his season high from a win over Wisconsin on December 6.

"I didn't know that he was 7-of-7 (from 3-point range)," Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams said. "I think that he is an elite-level player and like he did against Wisconsin, I didn't know that he scored 14 straight until I came in here. He's already hard to guard but when he gets in a groove, he becomes really hard to guard."

McNeal drilled five baskets from the arc in the first half, leading Marquette to a commanding 41-27 lead at the break.

"(The basket) was looking real big early on there," McNeal said. "I made a couple in a row and after that, it felt like all of them were going in."

Hayward took over in the early minutes after intermission, hitting three of his four 3-pointers and scoring 11 points in the first 4:06 to extend the cushion to 54-31.

That great start was a part of a 25-4 run that gave the Golden Eagles a 66-31 advantage after a dunk by Dominic James with 11:46 to play.

James ended up with nine points for Marquette, which shot 54 percent (27-of-50) from the field in posting its most lopsided win in the Big East.

"I thought that when you start making shots at the clip that we were making them, it makes everything seem better," Williams said.

McNeal finished 9-of-10 from the floor, handed out six assists and grabbed five rebounds.

Overall, the Golden Eagles connected on a school-record 15 3-pointers, while the Bearcats went 3-of-19 from the arc.

"They shot the lights out today, I don't know if anybody in the country was going to beat them," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "I've got a very young team, a very young basketball club. We have a tendency to stare at each other, hang our head and get shocked when things don't go well for us. We didn't respond. The snowball started downhill and we weren't able to stop it."

Rashad Bishop and Larry Davis scored 11 points each for Cincinnati (10-4, 0-1), which struggled offensively once again, failing to crack 51 points for the third straight game.

Bearcats leading scorer Deonta Vaughn was held without a point, going 0-of-8 from the field and 0-of-6 from the arc. The junior guard, who entered the contest averaging 15.2 points, did have a career-high 10 assists.

"(Marquette) came out and played great defense," Vaughn said. "They made sure that I didn't get started, which would have helped us out even more if I would have got started. I tried to keep the team in the game. I tried to not force things and limit my turnovers; I probably had like one or two turnovers tonight."