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Marquette gets defensive

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Associated Press
December 22, 2007
— MILWAUKEE (AP) – Marquette guard Dominic James always lobbies to defend the other team’s best player. He made a pretty compelling case on Friday night.

With James leading the way, the No. 10-ranked Golden Eagles’ backcourt didn’t even let Coppin State’s leading scorer get off a shot in a dominant 89-42 victory.


Marquette (9-1) held Coppin State scoreless for more than 7 minutes during a dominant 22-0 run that put the game out of reach midway through the second half, playing suffocating defense against a team that had been held under 40 points in its previous two games.


“Everything starts on defense,” James said. “I told coach I want to guard their best player.”


That’s a plea Marquette coach Tom Crean hears frequently, and James isn’t the only one making it.


“I get that text all the time,” Crean said. “But he’s not alone. He doesn’t have that market cornered.”


Crean said he has to divide up tough defensive assignments among James and fellow guards Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews just to make sure there are “no hurt feelings.”


“It’s contagious,” Crean said. “It’s contagious for this team, and it starts with those three guys.”


Coppin State’s Tywain McKee came in averaging 17.1 points per game, but didn’t take a shot from the field in 22 minutes and finished the game with two points, both on free throws.


Matthews said the Golden Eagles are trying to get into good habits going into Big East play.


“Taking teams out of their game plan right away from the jump,” Matthews said. “Having pressure defense, getting in their face. Just keep doing it against teams now so when conference season rolls around, it’s nothing new.”


James and Jerel McNeal scored 18 points each and Lazar Hayward added 17 for the Golden Eagles, who have won five straight since losing to Duke in the Maui Invitational.


James said the balanced scoring is a key to being an elite team.


“You look at Florida last year, they had almost their whole starting five in double figures,” James said.


Crean couldn’t find much of anything to nitpick about his players’ performance on Friday night, so he just told them to get ready to run in practice after a short holiday break.


“You don’t get many games where so many things go right,” Crean said.


Just about everything went wrong in the seventh straight loss for Coppin State (3-9) – and it probably isn’t going to get any better soon.


Coppin State faced a brutal turnaround after Friday night’s game, heading to Bloomington, Ind. for a noon game against the No. 13-ranked Hoosiers on Saturday.


Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell clearly wasn’t looking forward to the trip – because he apparently wasn’t the guy who scheduled it.


“It was an administrative error, but it’s not me,” Mitchell said. “It wasn’t me, OK. That’s all I can say.”


Crean called it a “really tough” turnaround.


“Coach Fang is such an excellent person,” Crean said. “You’d find very few people in the game who don’t root for him.”


Brian Chesnut scored 13 points to lead Coppin State, which remained winless on the road.


Mitchell said his main scoring threat, McKee, needs to “take more charge” during games.


“He realizes that people are really focusing on him, but he has to be a lot stronger with the basketball than what he (was) today,” Mitchell said.


Marquette held a comfortable 43-24 lead at halftime, then put the game out of reach with the 22-0 run that began with a pair of free throws by Wesley Matthews with 15:31 left in the half. The run was capped by a soaring alley-oop from Maurice Acker to Matthews and 3-pointer by James – who also nailed a pair of 3s after putting up an airball from 3-point range midway through the decisive run.


Coppin State’s Mike Miller finally scored at the 8:24 mark, making the score 71-35.


It was the first time Marquette held an opponent under 50 points since a 65-48 victory over Delaware State in December 2006.


“No matter which way we look at it, we threw the ball away 20 times today – and they didn’t even press,” Mitchell said.


The Golden Eagles played Friday’s game without two of their best shooters because of injuries. Forward Dan Fitzgerald missed his fifth straight game because of a wrist injury, and guard David Cubillan sat out with an ankle injury.


In their absence, McNeal was 3-for-4 from 3-point range and James was 3-for-6.



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