MILWAUKEE (AP)—There was no letdown for Marquette.
Three days after its victory over Big East leading Pittsburgh, Marquette sophomores Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal scored 22 points apiece and No. 15 Marquette had little trouble beating Seton Hall 89-76 on Wednesday night.
“It’s really hard to maintain a top-notch intensity level that these guys have maintained the past few weeks,” Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean said. “Our guys are really doing quite well with it. They come to play, they come to win, they come to work hard.”
Marquette (18-4, 5-2 Big East) avoided an upset after its thrilling 77-74 overtime victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Golden Eagles have won five consecutive games after starting conference play with losses to Providence and Syracuse.
The reason for the improved play has been Marquette’s ability to drive to the basket instead of relying on 3-point shots. In their losses to Providence and Syracuse, the Golden Eagles went 8-for-44 in 3-pointers.
Against Seton Hall, Marquette scaled back its long jumpers, making 5-of-12 threes, instead using speed to outscore Seton Hall, 38-2, in fastbreak points and 56-30 in the paint.
“We went to the hole,” said Matthews, who tied his career high in points.
It was the first time this season that Seton Hall (11-8, 3-4) has lost two consecutive games. The Pirates started the season 6-1, but have gone 5-7 since.
“We gave everything we had,” Seton Hall’s Jamar Nutter said.
McNeal has big a big part of Marquette’s success. He made 9-of-15 shots, and had seven rebounds, four steals and a career-high 10 assists.
“We started off slow, 0-2 in the conference,” McNeal said. “At the time we had a lot of doubters, but guys in the locker room kept our heads up. Coach had confidence in us and we knew we’d get it rolling again. Now, we have to keep it rolling.”
Seton Hall held Dominic James, Marquette’s leading scorer, to 11 points. He had nine points in the first 10 minutes of the game, but then was held scoreless until hitting a driving layup to give the Golden Eagles a 78-67 lead with 5:11 left.
The James’ basket came in the middle of an 11-1 run capped by Ousmane Barro’s dunk, giving the Golden Eagles an 85-68 lead with 2:55 left.
Barro had 13 points and six rebounds, all in the second half.
Nutter scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second half and Eugene Harvey added 14 for Seton Hall.
The Golden Eagles opened their biggest lead, 61-41, on a basket by Barro with 14:48 left, but Seton Hall scored 13 consecutive points to come within 64-58 on Nutter’s jumper with 10 minutes left. The Pirates never got closer than five points.
“We expended so much energy,” Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said of his team’s second half run. “We get to five and all of a sudden we were shot. We were a play or two away from really making this game tight, but we just didn’t have enough in the tank.”
Marquette led in fastbreak points, 22-0, in the first half to hold a 43-30 halftime lead. Harvey and Brian Laing, Seton Hall’s top scorers, were held to 5 points on a combined 2-for-10 shooting.
Marquette used a 10-0 run midway through the first half to take the lead for good, and followed that streak with a 12-3 run soon after to take control.
Pirates freshman John Garcia, playing in his third collegiate game after missing most of last year and the first 16 games this season with a knee injury, scored 10 points in his first career start.
Seton Hall was outrebounded 39-11 in a loss to Georgetown on Friday night. The Pirates did a better job on the boards Wednesday night, holding a 35-34 advantage over Marquette.
Matthews’ previous career high was 22 points on Dec. 30 against Savannah State.