MILWAUKEE — Jerel McNeal scored 14 points, Dominic James added 13 and Dan Fitzgerald hit a key 3-pointer in the closing seconds to lead No. 15 Marquette to a gritty 61-56 victory over Seton Hall on Tuesday night.
Their 11th straight home win helped the Golden Eagles (12-2, 2-1 Big East) rebound from a tough loss at West Virginia on Saturday when they had trouble generating offense against the Mountaineers' zone.
But another possession game seemed unlikely with both Seton Hall (10-5, 0-2) and Marquette averaging more than 80 points a game. Instead of pushing the tempo, though, it turned into a typical conference game - tough defense, over the top physical play and a late rally.
After finally taking a lead with 5:58 left, Marquette then had to hold on, going 6-of-9 from the free throw line down the stretch while the Pirates tried to mount a rally behind Eugene Harvey, who finished with 18 points.
First Harvey hit a bobbled floater in the lane, then made two free throws to make it 56-54 with 1:01 to play.
But teammate Brian Laing, who had 13 points, fouled out on the ensuing possession and James hit two free throws to make it 58-54.
Larry Davis' turnaround jumper made it 58-56 with 40 seconds to go, but on the next possession, the Pirates elected not to foul and Wesley Matthews drove and bobbled the ball before finding Fitzgerald for the wide-open 3 with 9.4 seconds left. Fitzgerald finished with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting on 3s.
The Pirates, who haven't won a conference road game since March 3, 2006 at Pittsburgh, controlled the game through the first half and most of the second despite playing without Paul Gause, one of their best defenders, who broke a knuckle last week. Instead, Seton Hall used a seven-man rotation and played a 2-3 zone to clog the lane, forcing Marquette to shoot outside.
It almost worked.
Marquette trailed 47-42 with 7:19 to play after a jumper by Laing.
But the Golden Eagles got over the hump when the game got ugly with six minutes left. Jamar Nutter took down James on a fast break and James fell awkwardly on his right forearm as his layup tied the game at 47.
Maurice Acker replaced James and hit the two free throws for the intentional foul to give Marquette a 49-47 lead, its first since a minute into the game.
Seton Hall's zone almost worked, with the Golden Eagles shooting 4-of-21 to start the game as the Pirates led by as many as 13 points in the first half while Marquette went scoreless over a five-minute stretch.