MILWAUKEE (AP)—Wesley Matthews just wanted to play somebody, anybody, after Marquette’s long layoff.
Matthews scored 12 points and Lazar Hayward added 12 points and seven rebounds to lead No. 10 Marquette to an 82-51 victory over Sacramento State on Saturday.
After playing one game in 14 days and twice since a Nov. 21 loss to Duke in the finals of the Maui Invitational, the Golden Eagles didn’t show any letdown following an emotional 81-76 victory over Wisconsin the week before.
“After three weeks straight with just one game in between, that’s not cool,” Matthews said. “We were just excited to get on the court again and play against somebody else.”
Marquette (7-1) opened with a 14-0 run against the Hornets, the first opponent in a five-game home stretch that includes four guaranteed games before the Golden Eagles open Big East play against Providence.
“They’ve had a long week, it’s been like football, we’ve had three straight weeks, three games, that’s a tough deal,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “To come out and play with that kind of intensity … I’m proud of them.”
Sacramento State (2-8) lost its 13th straight road game because it had no answer for Marquette’s balanced scoring, which included 13 points from Jerel McNeal, 12 points from Ousmane Barro and 10 points from Maurice Acker.
On one play, Matthews snagged an offensive rebound and rifled a pass to Dwight Burke for an easy dunk. A few moments later, Dominic James found Matthews streaking to the basket on a fast break for a reverse layup.
“Two years ago we might not have came out like that, last year, I’m not sure, it was a tossup, this year, we’re older, we’re wiser and we’re just ready to play,” Matthews said.
James hit a 3-pointer of his own to make it 14-0, and before the end of the first half Marquette was playing five guards at the same time.
“Experimental,” Crean said of the lineup.
Matthews said he liked playing with four other guards, but joked: “It’s hard when you’ve got to rebound.”
Sacramento State got its first basket just over five minutes in when freshman Vinnie McGhee, the only healthy point guard for the Hornets, hit a 3. McGhee led the Hornets with 15 points, but also had seven turnovers.
Even when things appeared to go right for Sacramento State, something bad happened for the school that has never had a winning season since starting Division I play in 1991.
Justin Eller hit a shot and was fouled during Marquette’s run, but the points were waved off because the shot clock had incorrectly reset and referees determined it had already expired.
A basket by Hayward made it 28-8 at the midway point of the first half, and it was 46-22 at the break. The Hornets hung around for a little while in the second half, getting within 15 on a driving layup by McGhee.
“I thought the second half was really long,” Hornets coach Jerome Jenkins said. “It felt like we were down by 40, but when we looked up at the scoreboard, it’s not so much that we were in the game but we had some things to fight for.”
Sacramento State’s only wins this season are over a pair of NAIA Division II schools that are a combined 8-18 going into play Saturday. Against Division I opponents, the Hornets are 0-8, losing by an average of more than 20 points.
“We knew we were playing a big monster,” Jenkins said. “That was the best physical talent we went up against all year. We had to work for everything.”
Crean said each of the next teams on Marquette’s schedule, which includes IPFW, Coppin State and Savannah State, serves a purpose of preparing before Big East play.
“These guys are getting better, they work at such a high rate,” Crean said. “That’s kind of what I’m focused on, and I want them focused on the same thing.”