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No. 24 Marquette faces Seton Hall in Big East opener

Mar 12, 2008 - 10:29 AM Seton Hall (17-14) vs. No. 24 Marquette (22-8) 9:00 pm EDT

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- No. 24 Marquette looks to beat Seton Hall for the third time this season when the teams square off on Wednesday in the first round of the Big East tournament.

The sixth-seeded Golden Eagles (22-8) have defeated the 11th-seeded Pirates (17-14) four straight times. Last season, Marquette entered the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed but was knocked out in the quarterfinals.

The Golden Eagles have lost two of their last three games, including an 87-72 defeat at Syracuse on Saturday. Junior guard Jerel McNeal, who missed Marquette's last four games last season with an injured right thumb, is averaging a team-high 13.6 points and 2.3 steals.

"We don't have a lot of goals, but we feel like if we can get to the semifinal game on Friday night that you have an opportunity to play for it all," Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean said. "Getting to the championship is incredible, winning it would be incredible, but if you're playing in the Friday night semifinal game, that's what we aspire to get to, and I think we can do that."

Seton Hall has lost three straight and eight of 10, including a 64-61 loss to Rutgers in its regular-season finale Sunday. The Pirates blew a 17-point lead and lost on JR Inman's 3-pointer at the buzzer. Senior swingman Brian Laing averages 19 points for Seton Hall.

Seton Hall has lost in the first round each of the last three times it has been in the tournament. The winner faces third-seeded Notre Dame in Thursday's quarterfinals.