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McNeal, Marquette wear down West Virginia

Jan 10, 2009 - 10:08 PM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Marquette was like two different teams Saturday.

Jerel McNeal scored 26 points as the 15th-ranked Golden Eagles overcame a sluggish first half to rout No. 22 West Virginia, 75-53, in a bruising Big East Conference battle.

An 11 a.m. local starting time may have contributed to Marquette's slow start, but coach Buzz Williams was not pleased.

"It was the tale of two halves," Williams said. "I thought we were pitiful in the first half. I thought we were stagnant offensively in the first half and Da'Sean Butler looked like Kobe Bryant and I think they had eight offensive rebounds in the first half."

Butler scored all 16 of his points in the first half, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave West Virginia a 31-29 lead at the intermission.

"It wasn't perfect by any means," said McNeal, whose 26 points matched a season high. "It was going to be an ugly game, we knew what type of style they were going to make for us."

West Virginia (11-4, 1-2 Big East) dictated a deliberate tempo in the first half. However, Marquette (15-2, 4-0) took control in the second half after the Mountaineers got into foul trouble and rolled to its seventh straight victory.

The Golden Eagles pulled away with a 24-3 burst in the final eight minutes, turning a close game into a blowout.

"What people overlook is that they put so much pressure on the ball they take you out of what you want to do offensively," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "I thought today they did a very good job defensively. They are undersized and they are mismatched on a lot of occasions and they really compete."

Two West Virginia starters - forward Butler and point guard Darryl Bryant - each picked up their fourth fouls early in the second half.

Butler went to the bench after picking up his fourth with 16:36 left in the contest. He returned with 7:04 remaining, only to foul out less than a minute later while battling for a rebound.

"It started to get away a little bit and I didn't see any sense in having Da'Sean sit to the point that we couldn't get back into the game," Huggins said. "I put him back in, it's a two-point game."

Devin Ebanks' jumper staked West Virginia to a 35-30 lead with 18:14 remaining, but Wesley Matthews answered with eight straight points for Marquette.

Dominic James' jumper with 14:59 left capped a 10-0 spurt, giving the Golden Eagles a 40-35 lead.

West Virginia, which has dropped two straight, managed to tie the contest twice over the next four minutes but never regained the lead.

With the game slipping away, Huggins was slapped with a technical foul with 5:21 left. McNeal hit 1-of-2 from the line, extending Marquette's lead to 61-48.

"We just have a great feel for whose hot and who can do what," McNeal said. "We have unbelievable chemistry on the court right now."

James added 17 points for Marquette and Matthews chipped in with 13 - all in the second half.