MILWAUKEE (AP)—Marquette never practices shooting free throws. The Golden Eagles got all the work they needed at the line against Central Michigan anyway.
Wesley Matthews went 10-for-10 on free throws and scored 18 points, Dominic James added 15 points and No. 25 Marquette bounced back from its first loss with an aggressive defense that stymied the Chippewas in an 81-67 victory Tuesday night.
“Wins are hard to come by, regardless of who you’re playing,” James said. “We really didn’t have that flow, it was frustrating as a player, but games like this are just a grind. Obviously they didn’t want to get in an up-and-down paced game with us and they were trying to take the air out of the ball.”
When that happened, Marquette went to the line, shooting 81.6 percent (31-of-38) in a game that featured 49 fouls and a plodding pace.
“We talk about defending without fouling more times that I tell my wife I love her,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said.
Back at home, Marquette (6-1) looked little like the team that got outrun by Dayton in the Chicago Invitational three days earlier.
James added seven rebounds and five assists with just one turnover, while Lazar Hayward, who fouled out, scored 14 points. Central Michigan had eight players with at least three fouls.
“With Coach Buzz, we never practice free throws, never,” James said. “He just feels like it’s toughness, it’s all in your head.”
Williams said it was like practicing riding a bike.
“You step to the line and you make free throws,” Williams said. “Your shot doesn’t change, just like when you’re riding a bike, it doesn’t change no matter how long it’s been since you rode a bike, but your mind needs to be right in order to make free throws.”
Jerel McNeal, who finished with 14 points, hit a jumper as time expired in the first half, and Marquette began pulling away to start the second, outworking Central Michigan (2-4) on the glass at key points with a 13-4 run to start the half.
“We really got the ball to the paint and played off of that,” Williams said. “We played with and off one another at a very high level.”
It was never more apparent than when Hayward missed the second of two free throws. Matthews pulled down the rebound and was fouled on the putback, converting the three-point play to make it 47-31.
“Going against a team that was coming off a tough loss and is nationally ranked, you’re going to get their best effort,” Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler said. “To start the game we were really ready to battle, and our kids gave great effort. (When) you have the savvy and poise that they have, it is pretty tough to overcome.”
Jacolby Hardiman had 20 points for Central Michigan.
The Chippewas, who never got closer than eight points after the three-point play, started the half missing eight of their first 10 shots, leading one Marquette student to shout “This game is so boring!” after yet another foul was called.
Marquette made it a little more interesting with a 14-2 run moments later to stretch the lead to 20, and the season gets a lot more interesting Saturday, when Wisconsin comes to the Bradley Center.
After a game with IPFW, the Golden Eagles travel to Nashville to play No. 10 Tennessee in the Big East/SEC Invitational on Dec. 16.
It’s been nearly five years since Central Michigan played a ranked team, but the Chippewas fell to 4-23 all-time against them.
Jeremy Allen scored 19 points, Chris Kellermann 12 and Robbie Harman 10 as Central Michigan went 4-of-25 from 3-point range, but Zeigler said it was a good measure of their future.
“We feel good about where we’re headed,” Zeigler said. “If you aspire to play in March, you have to be able to play in these types of venues. You’ve got to see where you are, and this was a good early test for us.”