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MU Suffers First Loss BIG EAST Loss At USF, 57-56

Jerel McNeal led Marquette with 22 points

Feb. 6, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. (AP)–Jesus Verdejo scored 21 points and Dominique Jones made a driving layup to put South Florida ahead with 15.9 seconds to go, and the Bulls held on Friday night for a 57-56 victory over No. 8 Marquette.

USF's first win over an opponent ranked in the top 10 snapped Marquette's 12-game winning streak and left the Big East without an unbeaten team in conference play. The Bulls (8-14, 3-7) led by as many as 10, but needed nine points from Verdejo in a five-minute span of the second half to keep the Eagles (20-3, 9-1) from taking over the game.

Marquette's Wesley Matthews missed a six-footer and Lazar Hayward's putback rolled off the rim as time expired, dropping the Eagles into second in the Big East behind No. 1 Connecticut.

Jerel McNeal led Marquette with 22 points before fouling out in the final minute. Dominic James and Matthews had 11 apiece, however the cold-shooting Eagles went 4-for-24 on 3-point attempts and were 10-of-23 from the foul line.

Jones finished with 15 for USF, but his inability to make free throws in the last minute ensured Marquette would have a chance to win at the buzzer. The Bulls' leading scorer with an 18.3-point average missed the front end of a 1-and-1 after McNeal drew his fifth foul with 54.1 seconds left, then failed to complete a three-point play on the basket that put USF up for good.

Marquette rallied from a 10-point deficit to trail 32-28 at the half. The Eagles used a 13-4 run to go up 47-42 with just over 8 minutes left, but Verdejo scored South Florida's next 11 points to keep the Bulls close.

James was 1-for-9 from behind the arc and reserve Maurice Acker was 0-for-3, with his biggest miss coming on an open 3 that USF rebounded and turned into Jones' go-ahead layup.

McNeal has scored at least 20 in seven consecutive games and moved ahead of Butch Lee into second place on Marquette's career scoring with 1,753 points–20 behind the school record of 1,773 set by George Thompson from 1996-69.

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