for this game

Back at home, Marquette stays on roll

Jan 24, 2009 - 11:51 PM MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Marquette was more than happy to be back in the friendly confines of the Bradley Center following a bizarre incident in its previous game.

Wesley Matthews scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half as the 10th-ranked Golden Eagles coasted to a 79-70 victory over DePaul for their ninth straight win in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.

Jerel McNeal poured in 21 points to pace Marquette (17-2, 6-0 Big East), which shot a sizzling 56 percent (19-of-34) in the first half to open a 48-34 lead. Dominic James handed out all nine of assists in the opening 20 minutes.

Despite the relatively comfortable victory, Marquette coach Buzz Williams was unhappy with his team's performance - especially on defense.

"I didn't think we strung together perfect possessions at either ends of the floor," he said. "I thought that we were out of character at times offensively. We were definitely out of character more times than not defensively."

Still, the surprising Golden Eagles, who set a school record for their best start in conference play, remained one of two teams along with Louisville without a loss in the Big East. Marquette was picked to finish sixth in the conference, which has eight teams ranked in the top 25.

In 1993, Marquette started 5-0 in the Great Midwest Conference, but the Golden Eagles still see plenty of room for improvement.

"We just have to do a better job of staying focused and staying hungry," said Marquette forward Lazar Hayward, who dominated on the boards with 17 rebounds - including six on the offensive end.

Hayward also scored 16 points, going 6-of-13 from the field.

"He's such a good player offensively, but he has to get to that point defensively," Williams said of Hayward. "I told him that four or five rebounds, that's what average guys get at his position, but he has to get eight or nine. He really listened to what I said. He got 17."

The well-rested Golden Eagles had been off since last Saturday's 91-82 victory at Providence in which they rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half.

With 17:13 left in that contest, Jonathan Xavier, the brother of Providence player Jeff Xavier, walked onto the court to confront one of the referees.

There were no incidents Saturday - just a strong first half by the home team.

"We were so good in transition in the first half, but it trended toward us getting too quick in the half court in the first half," Williams said.

Marquette spotted DePaul (8-12, 0-7) a 5-0 lead, but went ahead for good, 8-7, on Hayward's jumper with 16:32 remaining.

The Golden Eagles cooled off in the second half - shooting only 32 perfect (8-of-25) - and the Blue Demons were able to climb back into the contest. They pulled within 55-48 on Dar Tucker's two free throws with 10:13 remaining.

"We have to do a better job of staying focused throughout the game," Hayward said.

However, they got no closer, and Marquette built the lead back up to 69-55 on McNeal's layup with six minutes left.

Tucker scored 18 points and Will Walker added 17 for the Blue Demons, who remained one of three winless team in the Big East play with Seton Hall and Rutgers.