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Hayward, McNeal spark Marquette past Providence

Jan 18, 2009 - 6:01 AM PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (Ticker) -- Lazar Hayward and Jerel McNeal scored 25 points apiece as No. 14 Marquette used a big second half to streak past Providence, 91-82, on Saturday.

Wesley Matthews chipped in 22 points for the Golden Eagles (16-2, 5-0 Big East), who scored 51 points in the second half en route to grabbing sole possession of first place in the Big East.

Hayward hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to cut the deficit to 74-72 with 7:29 left. Two minutes later, Dominic James' dunk forged a 76-76 tie and Hayward's 3-pointer with 3:25 left gave Marquette its first lead since 11-10 early in the first.

"We just stayed in there, kept fighting, persevering through it all, and at the end we got that run that we needed to put us on top," McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Then after that, it was over."

McNeal scored seven points in the last 1:54 to help hold the lead.

The Friars led 45-40 at the half and came out of the break sharp, pushing the advantage to 55-44 on Marshon Brooks' 3-pointer with 16:28 left.

Providence gained its biggest lead of the night, 61-48, on Geoff McDermott's dunk with 14:25 to play.

McNeal started the comeback on the Golden Eagles' next possession, draining a 3-pointer. James hit a 3-pointer on Marquette's following possession and Hayward's dunk with 12:36 remaining made the deficit a much more manageable 63-56.

"They just made a run and we couldn't stop them," Brooks told the Providence Journal. "It was a tough loss."

Brooks collected 21 points and McDermott finished with 15 points, 18 rebounds and six assists but when 3-of-9 from the free-throw line and made a key turnover late in the game for Providence (11-6, 3-2).

"When you look back on it, this game won't be any more important than game 12 or 15," Providence coach Keno Davis told the Providence Journal. "At the time, you think 'If you can get this one, wow, that sets up this or that.' You can't do that.

"This year especially there will be a lot of games where something happens when you think the opposite. You just have to take advantage of every opportunity and when you play at home that's your best chance to get wins against the top 25. To be able to get a top-25 team here, whether it's Marquette or UConn or whoever, you feel a little bit more like it's a good opportunity."

Friars forward Jeff Xavier caused a stir early in the second half when he went up for a layup and caught an elbow in the eye from Joseph Fulce. Xavier lay on the ground in pain for a few minutes before he left the court and screamed at officials for not calling a foul on the play on his way to the locker room.

Xavier's brother, Jonathan, walked out of the stands from behind the Providence bench and confronted the official before being escorted out of the arena. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

"I saw the guy coming out of the stands," Marquette coach Buzz Williams told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I told those officials, 'Look, we'll leave, because that's extremely dangerous.' Forget the game; I'm going to protect these guys."