PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)—Wesley Matthews was unaware he set a school record with his 10-for-10 shooting, but was very conscious of the foul shot he missed when his Marquette team was watching a huge lead nearly slip away.
Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, those 10 baskets held up.
“You take it how you can get it,” said Matthews after his 23 points and six rebounds helped No. 18 Marquette survive a furious Rutgers rally and take an 81-76 win Wednesday night. “It shouldn’t have been a game like this, we (almost) blew a 21-point lead. That happens. It’s the Big East, you’re on the road.”
The senior guard, who entered the game shooting 51 percent, had no idea he set the school record for field goal accuracy (minimum 10 attempts) in a game.
“I was feeling all right, I was attacking the basket so I was comfortable,” Matthews said. “I didn’t know I took 10 shots and I didn’t know I made all 10 of them. I’m more concerned about missing that free throw at the end than making 10 field goals.”
That miss came with 1:10 remaining and Rutgers in the midst of cutting a 57-36 deficit to two points. Matthews missed the front end of a one-and-one with Marquette leading 72-67. Rutgers sliced it to 73-71 with 34.2 seconds remaining.
But Lazar Hayward, who had 10 points, and Jerel McNeal, who had 16, each made two free throws to increase the advantage to 77-71 with 25.2 left.
“I think we relaxed a little bit,” Matthews said. “We played the scoreboard a little and that’s something we don’t like to do and don’t particularly do. They took advantage of it. They got hot, they’ve got a lot of good players and they’re at home.”
Dominic James had 15 points and six assists and Jimmy Butler came off the bench for nine points for the Golden Eagles (14-2), who won their sixth straight in starting 3-0 in the Big East for the first time since joining the conference in 2005.
Rutgers (9-7, 0-3), which dropped its fourth straight, got 22 from Mike Rosario. The freshman helped shoot the Scarlet Knights back in it after a six-point first half in which he shot 0-for-6 from three-point range.
Rosario made two three-pointers during Rutgers run, and Corey Chandler added 19 points and seven rebounds for the Knights. JR Inman scored all nine of his points in the second half.
“I just took my time and let the game come to me,” Rosario said. “I knew I’d be in a position to make big plays.”
But the Knights, who were playing their fourth straight ranked team, fell a few plays short of springing an upset.
“It’s just very difficult when you dig yourself that kind of a hole,” Rutgers coach Fred Hill said. “It takes so much energy to get back into it, and you really have no margin for error with everything you have to do.
“Matthews obviously had a great night. I thought we made him take some real tough shots and he obviously made them.”
Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams chalked Rutgers comeback up to life in the Big East.
“I wasn’t comfortable (with the big lead) and my team wasn’t comfortable,” Williams said. “Right before the second media timeout we got a little out of character. They made a great run, we had a hard time controlling it and slowing them down.
“It was a fight the rest of the way, but we were fortunate to make free throws when it counted most. I’m glad it’s over.”