Fri. Final: No. 24 Marquette 94, Western Carolina 77
By By Kyle Dlabay
In great need of depth, Marquette got a boost Friday night with two players taking to the floor for the first time as Golden Eagles.
Coming off a loss on Tuesday to Tennessee in Nashville, No. 24 Marquette (9-2) got back on track at the Bradley Center with a 94-77 win over Western Carolina.
Sophomore forward Joseph Fulce missed the beginning of the season with a stress reaction in his right kneecap and Chris Otule fractured a bone in his left foot during practice in early November. Fulce logged 11 points with two points and four rebounds while Otule also played 11 minutes with three points. Marquette coach Buzz Williams is not expecting much of his new guys right away.
"Really, really bad," Williams about Fulce and Otule's play on Friday. "They're not ready to play. They haven't earned the right to play. But from a logistical standpoint as it relates to the timing of our games over the next two weeks, I think it's important to try to figure out how Joe can play five minutes a game in January and how Chris can play six or seven minutes in January."
Williams mentioned Otule's size (6'10" and 245 pounds) and Fulce's length (7'1" reported wingspan) as helpful for his team as the Big East season draws near.
"It's just me attacking," Hayward said. "Playing the right way and just my teammates getting me the ball. Right place, right time. It's just them showing their confidence in me and I'm just showing it back to them."
Western Carolina did not make its first goal until 13:18 left in the first half as Marquette started the game on a 12-1 run. The Golden Eagles led 53-27 at halftime.
Jerel McNeal added 19 points and Wesley Matthews had 18. McNeal knocked down a career high five three-pointers. The leading rebounder for the Golden Eagles was Jimmy Butler with six, all on the offensive glass. Marquette had three players with five assists or more. Dominic James picked up six while McNeal and Matthews each had five.
Brandon Giles led Western Carolina in scoring with 17 points including four three-pointers. The Catamounts outscored Marquette 50-41 in the second half. WCU shot 56% from the field in the final half.
"I thought it was the tale of two halves," Williams said. "I thought our first half was probably as good as its been all year on both ends of the floor. I thought in the end second half, we weren't very good. Our mentality was poor coming out of halftime and then the last eight and a half, nine and a half minutes."
After playing eight games at the Bradley Center and three on neutral courts, Marquette has its first road game of the year against North Carolina State in Raleigh on Monday.
"They have three or four really good post players," Hayward said. "Pretty much everybody in the Big East has good post players so it will be a good test for us. We're going to have to work because they're good."