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Marquette makes a statement

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Associated Press
January 12, 2008
— Marquette’s strikingly easy victory over Notre Dame on Saturday was one for the 88-year-old rivalry’s history books—and one the Fighting Irish would just as soon forget.

Jerel McNeal had 18 points to lead five Marquette players in double figures, and the 15th-ranked Golden Eagles handed Notre Dame its worst loss in the teams’ 109-game series, 92-66.


The Marquette-Notre Dame rivalry dates to 1920, and the Irish have played the Golden Eagles more than any other opponent in their 103-year history. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 76-33, but you wouldn’t have guessed it Saturday.


“It was a statement win, not so much on the outside—for us,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “It was a statement that we could play this way, follow a game plan, eliminate mental errors, play with adversity.”


The defeat was the first for the Fighting Irish (12-3, 2-1 Big East) since Nov. 19 and snapped their 10-game winning streak.


Lazar Hayward added 17 points for Marquette (13-2, 3-1) and tied a career high with 11 rebounds. Dominic James added 16 points and seven assists, and Wesley Matthews scored 15 points.


Luke Harangody tied his career high with 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Notre Dame, but he had little help as sharpshooter Kyle McAlarney, coming off a career-high 32 points in a victory over Connecticut, finished with eight points. Point guard Tory Jackson had six points and fouled out with 7:15 remaining.


The Irish had a season-high 24 turnovers.


“I did a double take to make sure that counted for one loss,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “They were fabulous. The last eight, nine minutes, man, I am saying, ’I want to get guys out and get them ready for Tuesday because we’re not closing the gap today.’ Everybody in the building knew that.


“They were putting their Brett Favre jerseys on with 10 minutes to play.”


The Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks NFL playoff game began shortly after the final horn.


The Golden Eagles dominated from the start, with Matthews taking the opening tip and racing down court for a layup 5 seconds into the game. Matthews followed with a steal and a dunk a minute later to make it 5-0.


Marquette led 44-36 at halftime—Notre Dame’s first halftime deficit this season—and quickly took charge in the second half, outscoring Notre Dame 20-5 after the Irish had gotten within five points.


“Nothing went really well for us,” Brey said. “But it was a lot of Marquette playing very, very well. A lot of guys for them made big shots and big plays. It just wasn’t one or two guys. Seven, eight, nine guys made plays.”


Marquette had 20 fast-break points to Notre Dame’s two, and the Golden Eagles made a season high 12-of-24 of three-pointers. Marquette also tied a season high with 17 steals. Hayward and James had four each.


“We really have the same plan going into each game, and it always starts with ball pressure,” Hayward said. “We were getting stops, and whenever we get stops we’re off and running. That’s when we’re at our best.”


Harangody noticed.


“It’s hard to play against that,” he said. “They were doing extremely well, hitting open shots and moving the ball around and finding the open man. You have to give it to them on that, they played great.”


Marquette led by as many as 13 points in the first half, as the Irish, who lead the Big East in three-point shooting, missed their first eight three-point shots before McAlarney hit one with 5:58 remaining in the half to pull Notre Dame within 28-24. The Golden Eagles responded with an 11-2 run to take its biggest lead of the half, 39-26, with 2:58 remaining.


It was a sign of things to come, even though Harangody, who had 18 points and seven rebounds in the first half, got Marquette’s big men into foul trouble all game.


“Forget post-ups, he’s one of the best players in the country,” Crean said. “When a guy gets 29 points, you can’t walk out and really feel good about how you defended him.


“Our two 5 men had fouls on them so fast it’s unbelievable. But we settled down.”


And set a record in the rivalry.


“We made the point that this series has gone on for long before them and their parents long before I was around,” Crean said. “We want them to understand that there are certain games like this that are a little bigger because of the history of the two programs. That only goes so far, you’re not going to win because of tradition’s sake. You’re going to win because you execute and because you defend and play with great energy. We were able to do that today.”


The Irish were trying to move to 3-0 in the Big East for the first time since joining the league in 1995.



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