Sun. Final: Marquette 84, Cincinnati 50
By Todd Welter
Jerel McNeal was perfect from three-point range and Lazar Hayward came pretty close. Their three-point shooting combined with a dominate defensive performance led Marquette to an 84-50 rout of the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Bradley Center.
"He's an elite level player," Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said about McNeal. "When he gets in a groove, he becomes really hard to guard."
McNeal definitely was in a groove in this one and Cincinnati could do nothing to stop him. McNeal was a perfect 7-7 from beyond the arc towards a game-high 26 points.
"[The basket] was looking real big early on there," McNeal said. "I made a couple in a row and after that it felt like all of them were going in."
Hayward must have had that same feeling as he knocked down four of six three-pointers to finish up with 16 points. Wesley Matthews also reached double-figures with 17 points.
"We came in the game wanting them to shoot the threes," Cincinnati's top player Deonta Vaughn said. "We wanted them to do things they don't usually do. We figured we would let them shoot them, just contest them. In the second half, they wouldn't hit as much but they came down and they still hit more threes then we thought they would make."
The Bearcats must have not anticipated Marquette tying a team record with 15 three-pointers as it shot 60% from three. Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin disagreed with Vaughn's line of thought, describing it as ridiculous.
"We were not going to win today the way Marquette shot it," Cronin said bluntly. "They shot the lights out."
The Bearcats also did not have much of a shot at winning as Vaughn, who came into the game averaging 15.2 points per game, went scoreless. Marquette's defense also did not help Cincinnati's cause as the Bearcats shot just 33% from the field and went 3-19 from three-point range. Marquette forced 15 turnovers which led to 21 Golden Eagles' points.
Cincinnati held a 14-10 lead with 12:16 left in the first half. Marquette then outscored Cincinnati 31-13 to close out the half with a 41-27 lead.
"We started kind of slow the first six or eight possessions," Williams felt. "Obviously when you starting making shots at the clip that we were making them, makes everything seem better."
Things got even better for Marquette as the Golden Eagles started the second half with a 25-4 run as Hayward scored 11 points during that stretch. He must have felt the need to make up for lost time due to missing most of the first half with foul trouble. A problem that did not sit well with Williams.
"I don't care how Lazar plays in the second half because we are going to lose games when he only plays four minutes and twelve seconds in the first half. We can not absorb a blow to one of our four core guys."
Marquette did absorb the blow at least in this game thanks to the Bearcats only making just eight field goals in the second half.
"Our inexperience was glaring and the onslaught was too much to handle," Cronin described. "We don't play hard enough to win Big East games."
The Bearcats fall to 10-4 on the season and 0-1 in the Big East. Marquette improves to 13-2 and 2-0 in conference play. Marquette will play its first Big East road game on Wednesday night when the Golden Eagles travel to Rutgers.
McNeal's seven three-pointers was a career-high...The margin of victory was the biggest Marquette has ever had over Cincinnati...The two other times Marquette had 15 three-pointers was against Penn State in 1995 and Farleigh Dickinson in 1994...This is the first time that Marquette has started Big East play 2-0.