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McNeal, Eagles draw honors: Star guard makes first team all-Big East

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McClatchy Tribune
March 9, 2009
— The postseason awards have begun to roll in for the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Senior guards Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews were named all-Big East players, the league announced Sunday. McNeal made the first team and Matthews the second team.


McNeal joined Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet, Louisville’s Terrence Williams, Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody and Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair and Sam Young on the first team.


Matthews joined Connecticut’s A.J. Price, Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, Villanova’s Dante Cunningham and West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler on the second team.


The Big East’s player of the year will be selected from among the six first-team honorees and named on Tuesday, between sessions at the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.


McNeal has been recognized in some form for four years now by the league, including winning defensive player of the year honors in the 2006-’07 season, being named second team all-Big East as a sophomore and junior and earning all-rookie honors as a freshman.


In all games, he ranked third in the league in scoring at 20.1 points per game, fourth in steals at 2.1, tied for sixth in three-pointers made with 79, seventh in three-point percentage at 40.7% and 11th in assists at 3.9.


It’s the first such honor for Matthews, meanwhile, who figures to have a legitimate shot at being named most improved player after upping his scoring average by 7.2 points per game to 18.5 and getting to the free-throw line 224 times, most in the Big East and 14th-most in the nation.


Matthews’ scoring average ranked him fifth in the Big East. He also ranked third in free-throw percentage at 82.1% and 11th in three-point percentage at 38.5%.


Matthews’ primary competition for the award figures to be Cunningham, who averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds for the No. 11 Wildcats, and Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell, who finished second in the Big East in scoring at 22.5 points per game and three-pointers made with 96.


The winner will be announced today.


Forward Lazar Hayward, who averaged 16.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, was not among the top 20 vote-getters, and did not receive any mention.


The teams are selected by the Big East’s 16 coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own players. For the first time in four years, the league named five-player teams instead of 10-player teams.


MU (23-8, 12-6) left this afternoon for New York. The fifth-seeded Golden Eagles play a second-round game at 1 p.m. Wednesday against either Georgetown or St. John’s.



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