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Golden Eagles Roll to 12th Straight Win

Marquette is 9-0 in the BIG EAST after a 76-61 win over DePaul

Feb. 3, 2009

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) – As impressive as his numbers are, Jerel McNeal insists he's not trying to fill up the box score. It just seems to work out that way.

McNeal scored 26 points and No. 8 Marquette beat DePaul 76-61 on Tuesday night for its 12th straight victory, matching its longest winning streak in seven years.

The Golden Eagles (20-2, 9-0), the Big East's only undefeated team, had trouble putting away DePaul but did enough to send the Blue Demons (8-15, 0-10) to their 10th straight loss and keep them winless in the conference.

“It was a real good game for us,” McNeal said. “We let the game get away from us a little bit there in the first half, but I think we did a great job getting the game back under control in the second.”

Will Walker hit five 3s and had a career-high 30 points for the Blue Demons, who played without leading scorer Dar Tucker who twisted an ankle in the afternoon shootaround.

Wesley Matthews added 20 points for Marquette, while Dominic James had 15.

McNeal was 8 of 16 from the field, including 5 of 8 on 3s, to go with six assists, five steals and four blocks in another solid all-around effort. He has scored at least 21 points in the last six games, and has 10 steals and seven blocks in the last two.

“If I could come up with a few more adjectives, I would,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I think he's playing with an unbelievable chip on his shoulder, with a toughness that defines him as a person and as a player. He's all over the floor every possession, and that's why his line looks the way that it does. He's playing maybe as good as he could play every possession of the game.”

McNeal, meanwhile, insisted he never goes out of his way to make his presence felt. He just lets it happen.

“I never try to impact the game,” he said. “I want to have a variety of ways I can impact the game, but anytime you have that versatility, you can help your team a lot. It becomes a situation where the opposing team has to account for me at all times.”

DePaul trailed by 18 points in the first half and was able to cut the margin to five at halftime. The Golden Eagles went back ahead by 11 early in the second half.

The Blue Demons were within 62-54 after two baskets by Mac Koshwal, but a 3-pointer by McNeal made it 65-54 with just over 5 minutes remaining and Marquette remained in control from there.

“This is the quickest team by far (we've faced),” Walker said. “They might be a little smaller than some of the other teams, but they make up for it greatly by the speed they have.”

That speed helped create 21 points off 16 turnovers for Marquette, which was 28-of-49 from the field. If there was one area of concern for Marquette it was on the glass, where it was outrebounded 35-29.

Even so, they prevailed. And as the final seconds ticked away, a large chunk of Golden Eagles fans chanted: “We are … Marquette! We are … Marquette.”

That first-half run aside, DePaul didn't give its fans much to cheer. They haven't all season.

The Blue Demons were coming off a 19-point loss at Rutgers in a matchup of teams that had not won in the conference. The game before that they lost by 22 points to then-No. 2 Connecticut.

A nine-point winner over DePaul at home last month, Marquette took a 30-12 lead midway through the first half behind a scorching start by McNeal. Third in the Big East in scoring with a 19.7 average, McNeal had three 3-pointers during that stretch and scored 11 points.

Walker, who hit four 3-pointers against Rutgers, had two during an 8 point run that cut the lead to 33-26. And his 3-pointer and breakaway layup after a turnover by Marquette pulled DePaul within 37-33 with just under 3 minutes left in the half.

“He's really let the game come to him,” DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said.

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