Marquette mades Wade proud, cruises by Providence

MILWAUKEE -- Jerel McNeal didn't want to spoil Dwyane Wade's big day.

McNeal had 18 points and tied a career high with 12 rebounds, and Dan Fitzgerald had four 3-pointers to help No. 14 Marquette win its seventh straight game, beating Providence 69-62 on Saturday.

The victory came as Marquette retired Wade's No. 3 jersey at halftime.

"It was a real emotional day for him," McNeal said. "We definitely didn't want to mess that up by losing."

Sharaud Curry led Providence (14-7, 4-4 Big East Conference) with 17 points. Herbert Hill added 14.

With the victory, the Golden Eagles (20-4, 7-2) reached the 20-win mark for the second straight year and fourth time in coach Tom Crean's seven-plus seasons. The Golden Eagles last won seven straight conference games in 2002-03, Wade's last with Marquette, en route to a 27-6 season and Final Four berth.

"We can get a lot better," Crean said. "I tell the team I was part of 22 straight at Michigan State as an assistant."

Wesley Matthews made all 10 of his free throws and finished with 12 points for the Golden Eagles.

Providence, coming off its first road win of the season at Connecticut last Saturday, held Marquette star Dominic James to six points, tying a season low, on 2-of-11 shooting but had no answer for McNeal early.

McNeal -- a game after hitting a buzzer-beating layup to beat South Florida -- made 6-of-8 shots and had 13 points and eight rebounds in the first half. Curry also had 13 first-half points.

Reserves David Cubillan and Fitzgerald were key in the second half, when each had a pair of 3-pointers.

Cubillan's three with 7 minutes left gave Marquette its biggest lead, 60-47, before the Friars used a 9-0 run to help cut the advantage to four. Providence would get no closer.

"My teammates have been telling me I am not shooting enough," Fitzgerald said. "I always say, 'OK, OK, OK.' If your teammates are pressing that hard that means you have got to do it. And if I don't I am letting the team down."

Hill came in averaging 19.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.1 blocked shots per game in Big East play and had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks in the Friars' 74-59 victory over Marquette on Jan. 4.

But neither McNeal (head injury) nor Curry (team rules violation) played in that game, which saw Providence outrebound Marquette, 42-31, and hold the Golden Eagles to 31.1 percent shooting.

On Saturday, Marquette outrebounded Providence, 42-29, the largest deficit this season for the Friars, which dropped to 0-4 in games when they are outrebounded.

"There was a lot of intensity in the building, and we just didn't match it," Hill said. "We just didn't bring it."

Said Curry: "We think we can win every game that's left on our schedule. We've got to come out more focused and work harder. They just outworked us, and it paid off for them in the end."

Wade, in town because his Miami Heat play the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, became the ninth former Marquette player to have his jersey retired. Wade played two seasons for Marquette, leading the team to a 53-13 record during that span before the Heat made him the fifth pick of the 2003 NBA Draft.

"All I can say right now is, 'Wow," Wade told the crowd. "Coach Crean sent an unbelievable message about me. He believed in me. When I came in six-and-a-half years ago, he believed in a young, shy kid from Chicago, Ill. And I will forever love coach for that."

Wade gave a tearful hug to Crean at half court following the ceremony.

"I am just happy for him," Crean said. "He is such a great person, and he is so thankful. He has got more money than he will ever spend, with a lot more coming. He has got all the material things. But he is a family person, whether it's the Wade family, or whether it's the Heat family, or whether it's the Marquette family."

The other Marquette players to have their jerseys retired are Dean Meminger, Butch Lee, Maurice Lucas, George Thompson, Bo Ellis, Doc Rivers, Earl Tatum and Don Kojis.