November 19, 2007

Marquette needs rally to defeat Chaminade

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Many people in the Lahaina Civic Center may have been thinking of a game played almost 25 years ago, but not the players on the court.

Jerel McNeal scored eight of his 22 points in a late 11-2 run that let No. 11 Marquette hold off upset-minded Chaminade 74-63 on Monday in the opening round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

Chaminade, the Division II host of this eight-team tournament, was able to get within three points in the second half, immediately bringing to mind the Silverswords' shocking upset of Virginia on Dec. 23, 1982.

But McNeal keyed the deciding run with a tip-in of a missed free throw and three baskets on the break to let the Golden Eagles get some breathing room and avoid the upset.

"When you're on the court, you're just playing basketball regardless of who the opponent is," McNeal said. "It didn't matter that we're ranked and they're Division II, all you can think about is the next play and how it's going to help you win."

The Golden Eagles (3-0) will face the winner of the LSU-Oklahoma State game in the semifinals on Tuesday.

Lazar Hayward added 15 points for Marquette, which is making its first appearance on Maui, while Dominic James and David Cubillan both had 11.

McNeal finished 10-for-14 from the field.

Makro Kolaric had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Silverswords (1-1), while Rodrick Johnson added 13 points.

Chaminade, then an NAIA school, beat top-ranked Virginia and three-time national player of the year Ralph Sampson almost 25 years ago in what is considered by many the biggest upset in college basketball history.

This may not have shocked the world the way that result did, but it would have bettered all the upsets by mid-major teams early in this season.

"We were very fortunate to win. I hate to use the word lucky but I'm going to," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "I wouldn't call it a wake-up call. We just have to do a better job of what we should be doing."

The Silverswords got within three points for the third time in the second half when Johnson's turnaround jumper with 6:46 left made it 58-55. That's when McNeal took over with his athleticism.

He tipped in the miss of a free throw by Hayward to start the big run, then came up with some acrobatics to close it out.

He converted a lob pass from Cubillan on one fast break, then went in alone on another for a dunk. Hayward closed the run with a rebound basket that made it 69-57 with 3:21 to go.

The thoughts of a big upset were gone as the Silverswords never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

"We hit a couple of bumps there and they were able to come up with the ball and it led to a couple of dunks," Chaminade coach Matt Mahar said. "I think they looked up at the clock and decided it was time to turn up the pressure. They're super athletic."

McNeal said it wasn't just him in the deciding run.

"We knew there was going to be a stretch when our defense and intensity picked up," the junior guard said. "It wasn't just me. Somebody is going to get those baskets when we play like that and it just happened to be me."

Marquette led 39-30 at halftime but Chaminade opened the second half with a 6-0 run to get within three points.

The loss dropped Chaminade's record in the tournament to 4-64, with its last win a first-round victory over an undermanned Villanova in 2003.

"This loss is over and we have to prepare for the next two games," Mahar said.

Chaminade switched defenses throughout the game, using quite a bit of zone in the second half when several of their players encountered foul trouble.

"We were prepared for that," Crean said of the defenses. "We have to keep reversing the ball and get to the offensive boards."

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