MILWAUKEE (AP)—Dominic James concentrated on his defense, and it helped him regain his shooting touch.
James scored 19 points, and Jerel McNeal added 15 to lead No. 21 Marquette to a 79-71 victory over DePaul on Saturday night.
James, who made only 19 of 54 shots during a seven-game shooting slump, snapped out of it on 7-of-11 shooting to help the Golden Eagles (14-4, 4-3 Big East) end a two-game losing streak and improve to 11-0 at home.
Instead of focusing on his offense, the junior point guard concentrated on guarding DePaul’s leading scorer Draelon Burns, who had 19 points but made only 6-of-16 shots.
“It really started on the defensive end,” James said. “Our defense as a team is going to lead to our best offense.
“I started on Burns and took pride in that matchup. He’s one of their best players,” James added. “Just having that defensive mindset took my mind off offense.”
Marquette coach Tom Crean said he had rarely seen James play better.
“This was one of Dominic’s best games since he’s been at Marquette, because he was really spent every time he came out of the game,” Crean said. “He’s in great shape and I was really, really happy to see how hard he played. He had a lot of great possessions.”
Mac Koshwal also scored 19 points and had 12 rebounds for DePaul (9-10, 4-3).
“First half coach told me try and get Draelon some shots and figure out their game,” Koshwal said. “They are kind of small down low so in the second half I just came with the mentality that I should just try to dominate down low.”
Marquette had shot poorly (36 percent) in its previous two games, road losses at Louisville and Connecticut, and missed 10 of its first 11 shots against DePaul. The Golden Eagles snapped out of the shooting slump by making 28 of their final 55 shots.
“It was all confidence,” said Marquette’s Wesley Matthews, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half. “We were getting good shots, we just weren’t making them. We had faith in ourselves, faith in each other, that they would start falling after that.”
After missing all five 3-point attempts in the first half, the Golden Eagles were 6-of-11 in the second half before 19,037 fans, which Marquette officials said was the largest crowd to ever watch a college basketball game in Wisconsin.
DePaul got Marquette in foul trouble, shooting bonus free throws for most of the second half. The Blue Demons, though, failed to take advantage against the Golden Eagles, making only 11 of 19 from the line.
Lazar Hayward had 14 points and seven rebounds for Marquette. He played only 18 minutes while picking up his fourth foul with 12 minutes left in the game.
Dar Tucker scored 12 points, and Will Walker added 10 for DePaul, which had won seven of nine coming into the game.
The Golden Eagles never trailed after halftime and used an 11-3 run midway through the second half to open a 69-54 lead on David Cubillan’s 3 with 4:36 left.
DePaul used a late 9-2 run to get within 77-66, but was unable to get within single digits of Marquette until the final seconds.
Matthews tipped in a rebound and made a fast-break layup to cap Marquette’s 8-0 run to open the second half, giving the Golden Eagles a 38-27 lead with 16:49 to go.
“They caught us with a burst in the second half and we never were able to get over the hump,” DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said.
DePaul ran off seven consecutive points to pull to 55-49 on Tucker’s dunk with 9:52, but that’s as close as the Blue Demons came the rest of the game.
Marquette missed 10 of its first 11 shots, falling behind 11-4 on Burns’ 3-pointer with 15 minutes left in the first half. Crean then sent reserves Ousmane Barro, Cubillan and Maurice Acker into the game, and Marquette began its early comeback.
McNeal scored the final four points in a 10-1 run that gave the Golden Eagles a 25-21 lead with 4:23 left. DePaul, though, scored the final four points of the first half to pull to 29-27 at halftime.