MILWAUKEE -- For a half, the matchup between Marquette (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) and West Virginia (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) looked more like rugby than basketball.
At one point, a pair of Golden Eagles players ended up on the floor tangled in a scrum with a couple of Mountaineers as 3-on-3 play continued down the court without a whistle.But after going into halftime bruised, beaten up and trailing by two, the Golden Eagles' high-octane offense recovered to take control down the stretch for a 75-53 victory over the Mountaineers on Saturday."It was the most physical game I can remember," said Jerel McNeal, who led Marquette with 26 points. "From the time they tossed the ball up, they were going to let us play. We played through it. We could have held our heads down, but we kept battling back."Dominic James added 17 points and Wesley Matthews scored all 13 of his points in the second half for the Golden Eagles (15-2, 4-0 Big East)."I thought it was a classic Big East fight, in regards to everybody's going to fall down, everybody's going to go after every rebound," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said.After getting a pair of remarkable shooting performances from McNeal and Matthews in their previous two games, Marquette shot 33.3 percent in the first half -- including 1-for-10 from 3-point range.Some of Marquette's shots began to fall in the second half. And some of those physical no-calls turned into opportunities at the free-throw line, much to the chagrin of West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.Asked about the officiating after the game, Huggins held his tongue."You all are trying to get me in trouble," Huggins said. "I get in enough trouble. I would love to wax eloquently about it, but I can't."Da'Sean Butler led West Virginia (11-4, 1-2) with 16 points, but was shut out in the second half after getting into quick foul trouble and eventually fouling out.The Golden Eagles took control with a 16-5 run down the stretch -- and most of their points came at the free-throw line.With Marquette leading by 2, McNeal began the run with a 3-pointer at the 8:29 mark, earning a slap on the backside from Williams as he ran back on defense.West Virginia's Wellington Smith made a jumper, but the Golden Eagles went on to score the next six points on free throws.One of those fouls was the finale for Butler, who picked up a pair in the first four minutes of the second half, then sat on the bench until the 7:04 mark. He fouled out less than a minute after getting back in the game.His final two fouls were called away from the ball."Granted, if it is me guarding the basketball and I commit a foul, then I can live with it," Butler said. "But on those two calls, the referee didn't even know what I did when I asked him. I don't know what to tell you."Matthews picked up his fourth foul, and was replaced by Dwight Burke -- who immediately blocked a shot by Smith into the front row. Marquette then forced a bad shot by Will Thomas as the shot clock expired, the beginning of a two-minute scoreless skid by the Mountaineers.McNeal hit another 3-pointer with 5:26 left, putting Marquette up 60-48. Huggins called a timeout, then was called for a technical foul for arguing with an official.McNeal hit one of two free throws, and West Virginia's Alex Ruoff hit a 3-pointer to cut the Golden Eagles' lead to 10. But Lazar Hayward made a 3-pointer, putting Marquette ahead 64-51 with 3:22 left.Hayward, who took intravenous fluids before the game, was limited to four points and five rebounds in 23 minutes. Williams said he didn't know what exactly was wrong with Hayward."I told them to give him an I.V., and he was going to play," Williams said.McNeal played his second straight game with a finger injury. He taped it up at Rutgers on Wednesday, then began Saturday's game with a sleeve on his finger.Williams was skeptical of the sleeve, and told McNeal he'd have to take it off if he missed some shots early on."I saw him before the game and said, 'Is that some stuff that Kobe wears?" Williams said.McNeal started cold, so off came the sleeve."He came to the bench and he was rubbing it," Williams said. "So I told him he needed to take it off."