Wow. What a great atmosphere today. The fans showed up for a sellout contest between ranked archrivals and gave the home team the victory.
Up 10 at the half, Notre Dame did a solid job keeping turnovers low and surviving an unreal Marquette barrage from beyond the arc. The team shoots 36% for the season, but somehow manages to knock down half their looks against the Irish. In January, they were 12-24. Until the last second of the game, the Golden Eagles exactly matched that total (a last second James heave made it 12-25).
Up 8 with 2:17 left in the game, Notre Dame managed to let Tom Crean's squad back in the contest with poor shot selection and turnovers. It was the eleven straight free throws over the last 7:13 of the game that iced this one for the Irish. Thanks to Luke Harangody (7) and Jonathan Peoples (4) for saving Notre Dame from themselves.
Even so, it took a Dominic James missed three pointer at the buzzer to keep the win for Notre Dame. Letting James score on four straight uncontested layups was almost deadly. The wannabe NBA player scored 10 of Marquette's last 13 points and nearly single-handedly turned a ten-point Irish lead into a Golden Eagle win.
But first, the positives. Who taught Tory Jackson how to shoot? 2-4 from beyond the arc and seemed unfazed by open looks that he has previously been unable to make. Finished only 4-12, but had 14 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. Contributed to four of ND's 13 turnovers. Had four personal fouls in his 33 minutes, and was unable to stop James on successive drives to the basket (in fairness, he was clearly told to make sure James did not shoot a three to tie). 4-6 from the line is an improvement, but was far from the basketball when Marquette started fouling.
Kyle McAlarney was just quiet today. Speaks more to a balanced attack than anything else (5 players in double figures). 12 points, 2 assists. 5-11 shooting and 2-6 from three-point. Not a great performance, but not bad either.
Zach Hillesland had his best game of the year. 10 points, 7 rebounds. Was 4-6 shooting and made both free throw attempts. Add in an assist and a blocked shot for a very good overall game.
Rob Kurz was another very quiet player. 5 points, 5 rebounds. Only 24 minutes on the floor, but no foul trouble. Had a block and made one of two three point attempts, but was not his usual quetly efficient self.
Luke Harangody had an off game shooting, but came through on the stripe. Only 4-12 from the field, but finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. 10-13 from the free throw line and we needed every one of those. Turned the ball over 4 times, but also contributed a steal. Fifth straight double double and 13th of the year.
We sure needed those bench guys today. First, let me give some credit to Luke Zeller. The much maligned former Mr. Basketball in Indiana really came through. 11 points, 4 rebounds. 2-4 from three point land. Great for him to get his first double figure game since November. He always gives a good effort, but seldomly is needed as much as he was today. Ryan Ayers with 9 points and 2-5 from beyond the arc. His four point play was true quality. Knocked on his back by Jerel McNeal, Ayers could only lift his head and raise his arms from the hardwood to see the shot fall. Stepped to the line and drained the free one to put the Irish up 63-50. Jonathan Peoples was also very very clutch. 7 points, 5 rebounds. Made a three pointer on a goal tending violation to give ND its first points after Ayers' four point play. Most importantly, was four-for-four from the line, draining two with 18 seconds remaining.
Both teams were very good with the ball, Notre Dame with 13 turnovers and Marquette with 9. The Irish probably would have been around 10, but gave Marquette the ball over and over under two minutes left. Still a great improvement over the 24 in Milwaukee. Marquette outshot the Irish 45% to 43%. With the three-pointers, Maruqette had another great game, knocking down 12 to Notre Dame's 10 (44%). As mentioned, the Golden Eagles were almost indentical from beyond the arc in January, but Notre Dame improved from its earlier 21% performance.
The game was won on the line for the Irish. Not only did the eleven straight keep the ND lead, but 77% for the game and 19 more free ones than Marquette overall. The three-point rebounding advantage for Notre Dame was nice, but actually less than ND's eight-point edge in January.
For Marquette, Hayward and James led the way with 21 and 23, respectively. Both Hayward and Barro finished with double doubles. The 6-10 Barro was no threat scoring, however, with 1-9 shooting. Jerel McNeal added 10 points on an awful shooting performance and David Cubillan gave them 11 off the bench.
The 11,418 in attendence were loud from the tip and gave the Irish some good home support. The Legion's chants of "Tom Crean Sucks" didn't get the Marquette coach to completely lose his cool, but were entertaining nonetheless. The win should put the Irish solidly in the top 20 in both polls, with road games at UCONN and Rutgers next week. Way to keep the streak today (34 straight) and let's just keep on winning.