Sat. Final: Marquette 79, DePaul 70
By Todd Welter
Lazar Hayward had a challenge from his coach: do not be an average rebounder. 16 rebounds along with 17 points is a nice way to respond to that challenge in Marquette's (11th AP, 10th ESPN/USA Today) 79-70 victory over DePaul at the Bradley Center.
"I told him four or five rebounds, that is what average guys get at his position," Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said. "He's got to start getting eight and nine. He really listened to what I said and got 17. When he gets 17, that changes the complexion of our team."
Eight or nine rebounds a night is no easy task for a power forward that is listed at 6'6". Especially when he had to battle for rebounds against 6'10" Mac Koshwal who came into the game averaging 10.6 rebounds a game for DePaul.
"Those guys are a lot bigger so I have to use my quickness and do my work early," Hayward described. "A lot of it is anticipation and I think I did a pretty good job with that today."
Jerel McNeal's game-high 21 points reflected how things went offensively for Marquette. Plenty of scoring in the first half, not so much in the second half. Marquette shot 56% in the first half then dipped to a 32% clip in the second half. McNeal had 14 points in the first half then went cold in the second half with only three field goals. Wesley Matthews was about the only bright spot offensively in the second half as he scored 10 of his 20 points.
"It was back to us kind of losing focus; not being the mature team that we are, not making sure we are doing things right and that is why it probably dropped," Hayward thought about the second half shooting woes.
Marquette was able to weather the second half scoring drought thanks to its defense. Marquette pulled down 22 of its 41 rebounds in the half with ten of them being offensive rebounds. Credit Hayward with pulling down half of those 22 boards. DePaul cut Marquette's lead to seven with 10:13 left. Then Marquette's defense held DePaul to just three points over the next three minutes in which Marquette was able to build the lead back up to 14. That stretch of defense effectively ended any hope DePaul (8-12, 0-7 BE) had of getting its first Big East win.
DePaul also had trouble keeping Marquette's smaller lineup out of the paint. The Blue Demons, who do not have a player under 6'0" tall and normally start two 6'10" players, tried to go with a smaller lineup. It did not work out so well as Marquette played much bigger than its smaller stature down low outscoring DePaul 40-26 in the paint. Marquette forward Dwight Burke helped in that area as he had 10 points along with seven rebounds.
"It is funny when you are small, everybody says you can't score in the paint but they did it two ways," DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright said. "We tried to play a little bit smaller and missed a couple block outs. They got a couple tip ins but they also found the open man on the break and got the ball in the lane and scored."
Dar Tucker led the Blue Demons with 18 points while Will Walker added 17 points.
Marquette (17-2, 6-0 BE) remains undefeated in the Big East and faces a big challenge on Monday when it travels to Notre Dame (19th AP and ESPN/USA Today).