The Marquette Golden Eagles went to Piscataway, New Jersey with a five game winning streak including two huge Big East home wins against number thirteen-ranked Villanova and a very talented Cincinnati squad. In the Big East conference, every game in the conference is a tough game no matter what team you are playing. This showed tonight as the Golden Eagles played the Scarlet Knights.
The experienced lineup of the Golden Eagles proved a big factor against the Scarlet Knights in the first half as the Golden Eagles shot 54.8% from the field and forced the young Rutgers squad to 11 turnovers in the first half as Marquette took a 37-28 lead into the break.
Marquette jumped to an early lead 18-12 with 10:56 remaining in the half. Marquette senior Dwight Burke contributed with 6 points as the Golden Eagles capitalized on 9 Rutgers turnovers. Marquette then went on a 10-4 run with 8:22 in the half taking a commanding 30-18 lead. Wesley Matthews drove to the lane and converted on several layups as he had 7 points on the drive.
At the half, Marquette’s Wesley Matthews lead all scorers with 12 points going a perfect 5 for 5 in the field as well as hitting 2 of 3 at the free throw line. The freshman phenom for Rutgers Mike Rosario leading the team in scoring on the year had only 6 points in the half and shot 3-10 from the field and 0-6 from beyond the arc. It seemed as if the experience of Marquette was too much for this Rutgers team heading into the second half.
In the second half Marquette came out firing on all cylinders as the Golden Eagles went on an 18-4 run to take a 57-36 lead with 12:57 remaining. Dominic James had 7 points on the run making a couple of layups and a 3-point basket.
It looked to be like the game was over as Marquette and Coach Buzz Williams put in his bench players to get some playing time for his reserves and give his starters a breather. With the Marquette changes, Rutgers took advantage and responded with a 10-0 run of their own cutting the lead 57-46 with 9:02 remaining in the game.
Marquette then made some changes as they brought back in their starting lineup and jumped to a 15-point advantage 61-46 minutes later on baskets by Matthews and McNeal. The Scarlet Knights still did not give up as they went on a 15-5 run cutting the Marquette lead to 5, 66-61 with 4:39 to go in the game. During the run, Rutgers made three consecutive three pointers to put them back into the game.
Marquette would keep the lead steady after that point until Rutgers came down the court with less than a minute left and made two straight layups to cut the deficit to 73-71 with only 0:44 seconds remaining in the game. But that was the closest Rutgers would ever get, as Marquette would convert on all of their 8 free throw attempts to win the game 81-76.
Marquette shot 52.5% in the game and force 17 Rutgers turnovers in route to the win. Wesley Matthews lead all scorers with 23 points and shot a perfect 100%, 10-10 from the field during the game. Dominic James and Jerel McNeal also had very good nights as James had 15 points and 6 assists and McNeal added 16 points and grabbed 4 rebounds. After the game Rutgers coach Fred Hill said these words about Matthews’s performance: “He obviously had a great night. The only thing that we can do is make guys take tough shots. That’s our job and I thought that we made him take some real tough shots and he obviously made them. One of the things that he does real well is he gets to the free throw line. Tonight I thought we guarded him and made him take tough shots and didn’t allow him to get inside and get on the line like he normally does.”
On the other side, Rutgers shot 49.2% for the game and out rebounded Marquette 39-28 but the 17 turnovers proved to be costly to the Scarlet Knights as the game finished. Mike Rosario of Rutgers still had a big game despite the poor first half as he finished with 22 points and 5 rebounds. Corey Chandler also contributed a very good game as he had 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Marquette’s second half was very shaky and barely lost a 21 point second half lead. These were some comments from coach Buzz Williams after the game.
“Like all Big East road games I think that they are pretty hard to get. I thought that the first six to eight possession were okay, and I thought that we played pretty well the last 14 minutes of the first half. I thought that we started well in the second half, then right before the second media time out of the second half, I thought that we began to get a little out of character. Rutgers made a great run and we had a hard time controlling it. We had a hard time slowing them down, and it was just a fight the rest of the way. Rutgers was the aggressor and we struggled to calm them down. We were fortunate at the end to make free throw when they counted most and grateful to be able to pull it out.”
Don Dwyer and Pat Dunn