After displaying its resiliency with a come-from-behind victory, Marquette should not need any late heroics on Saturday afternoon when it concludes a three-game homestand against Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.
This game should serve as little more than a tuneup for the 24th-ranked Golden Eagles (7-1), who will play No. 8 Tennessee in Nashville as part of the Big East/SEC Invitational on Tuesday.
Marquette has led at halftime in six of its eight contests thus far, coming away with mixed results in the two it trailed after 20 minutes.
The Golden Eagles trailed by one in an eventual 89-75 loss to Dayton on Nov. 29, but proved more resilient last Saturday night, when they rallied from a six-point halftime deficit for a 61-58 home victory over in-state rival Wisconsin.
“I think our guys like to compete,” Marquette’s first-year coach Buzz Williams said. “I like our team to play with an edge, I like our team to play from behind—not literally play from behind, but play with that mentality.”
Jerel McNeal—second on the team with 18.5 points per game—scored 19 of his season-high 26 in the second half, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 5:26 remaining. He scored 17 of Marquette’s final 18 points, including 14 straight in an 11:26 stretch.
“We showed everybody on a very big stage that when we play the right way, when we’re (playing) together, we can be a very good team,” said McNeal, who earned Big East player of the week honors after averaging 20.0 points on 53.6 percent shooting in the Golden Eagles last two games.
Lazar Hayward grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds for the Golden Eagles, who outrebounded Wisconsin 21-14 in the second half to finish with a 31-30 advantage.
“Rebounding is so critical for us because we can’t give teams extra possessions,” said Williams, whose team has been outrebounded just once despite having just one player—6-foot-8 forward Dwight Burke—standing taller than 6-6. “Every team we play is bigger than us.”
Marquette will match up against an IPFW squad that features six players standing at least 6-6, led by 6-10 freshman forward Trey McCorkle.
But the Golden Eagles are hoping they can instead rely on their home success against the Mastodons. They’ve outscored teams by 17.3 points at the Bradley Center, going 6-0 while averaging 88.0 points. Their latest victory also pushed their home winning streak against non-conference opponents to 18 games.
Marquette has won both games against IPFW (4-5) all-time, including an 80-56 victory Dec. 17. James finished with 17 points, Hayward added 14 and Wesley Matthews—Marquette’s top scorer with 20.4 points per contest—had 15.
David Carson, averaging a team-high 15.2 points for the Mastodons, has totaled 18 in three career matchups with Marquette—playing the Golden Eagles once with Oakland before transferring—but scored 16 and grabbed nine rebounds in a 63-46 win at Valparaiso on Wednesday night to help IPFW end a three-game losing streak.
Deilvez Yearby had 13 points and eight rebounds, Nick Daniels scored 13 points and Zach Plackemeier added nine points and five assists for the Mastodons, who held the Crusaders to a season-low 31.1 percent shooting from the field, including 4-of-21 from 3-point range.
IPFW, off to its best start since becoming a Division I team in 2002, is 1-2 on its season-high seven-game road trip. It has also dropped eight straight against ranked foes since the start of the 2001-02 season.