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Brief lapse doesn't change outcome

Eagles withstand second-half surge

By TODD ROSIAK

Threatening to run away and hide from visiting Oakland University early in the second half Monday night, the Marquette Golden Eagles instead lost track of Golden Grizzlies guard Calvin Wooten. And just like that, they once again had a game on their hands.

The junior single-handedly rallied Oakland from a 16-point deficit with an offensive flurry not yet seen this season by MU to pull the Golden Grizzlies even with the Golden Eagles with just less than 14 minutes to play.

The crowd of 10,988 at the Bradley Center grew restless, but in the end had little to worry about. MU finally found a way to slow down Wooten and at the same time got an outburst of its own from Wesley Matthews.

The freshman guard scored 14 of his collegiate-high 21 points in the decisive final 10 minutes 41 seconds as the Golden Eagles took control and eventually won, 90-69.

Shooting just 32.1% for the season and mired in a 5-for-29 slump over his last three games, Matthews hit 7 of 12 shots and 3 of 4 three-pointers, including two at the tail end of a 15-5 run that turned a 49-49 tie into a 64-54 lead for MU (8-3).

“A career high always feels good in points but points aren't the only thing; it's the win,” Matthews said. “The win feels better than the career high. But I got in positions where I got open and my teammates did a great job of finding me. It's easy to shoot when your team and your coach have confidence in you. That's what I was feeding off of.”

Fellow freshmen Jerel McNeal and Dominic James also contributed heavily to the Golden Eagles' second victory in three days. McNeal also set a collegiate high with 18 points, 14 coming in the first half, and James rebounded from an uncharacteristically quiet two-game stretch to add 17 as MU shot 50% and outscored Oakland (4-4) in the paint, 44-26.

A 17-4 run over the final 6:23 of the first half left MU in the lead, 44-32, at halftime. The Golden Eagles scored the first four points out of the locker room to extend their lead to 48-32.

But just like that, Wooten, a transfer from Rutgers who entered the game averaging 23.9 points per game, woke up.

Having scored just two points in the first half, he got things going with a three-pointer from the right wing. After a free throw by Matthews and a layup by Vova Severovas, he canned another from almost the same spot.

Wooten put back one of his own misses and drained a three from the left wing. Another layup by Severovas made it a 17-1 run and left Oakland even for the first time since the 7:04 mark of the opening half.

“It was him getting hot, it was us not communicating in transition well enough and we kind of lost that spirit of, 'We're just going to lock our man up,' ” coach Tom Crean said. “He got it rolling and we relaxed a little bit. The guys were up, we had a good start to the second half and then we let our guard down a little bit.”

Just like that, though, MU responded. A jumper by Steve Novak got things going, and a dunk by Mike Kinsella added a little emphasis. Novak hit a three-pointer, and after a short banker by Wooten, Matthews hit 2 three-pointers sandwiched around a put-back by Dan Fitzgerald.

The rout was on again. For good measure, Matthews hit a pair of free throws, converted a traditional three-point play and finished his night with a three from deep in the right corner.

“Where Wesley was doing a lot of driving and kicking off (Saturday), he was the recipient of those passes tonight,” Crean said.


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