(24) Notre Dame (24-8) vs. (12) Marquette (23-7)|
Thursday, March 14, 9 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (19,763) -- New York, New York.
Television: ESPN. Home Record: Notre Dame 17-2, Marquette 16-0. Away Record:
Notre Dame 4-5, Marquette 5-6. Neutral Record: Notre Dame 3-1, Marquette 2-1.
Conference Record: Notre Dame 11-7, Marquette 11-4. Series Record: Notre Dame
GAME NOTES: In the final quarterfinal matchup in the Big East Tournament the
third-seed Marquette Golden Eagles will take on the sixth-seed Notre Dame
Fighting Irish Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Led by Pat Connaughton's best performance of the season, the Irish slipped by
Rutgers, 69-61, in Wednesday's first round. The Irish had lost two of the last
three games to close out the regular season but still managed to finish among
the top six teams in the conference in league play (11-7). Notre Dame has been
to the semifinals in each of the last three seasons and is looking to make a
fourth, and more successful trip, this time.
There wasn't a ton expected from Marquette this season but the Golden Eagles
didn't get the memo as they went a stellar 23-7 overall, tying for the best
league record (14-4) which gave them a share of the Big East title with
Georgetown and Louisville. Marquette comes into the postseason with wins in
four straight games and six of the last seven contests of the regular season.
There was just one meeting between these teams this season. Notre Dame failed
to knock off the Golden Eagles in the contest as they won a 72-64 game at the
Bradley Center, where they were a perfect 16-0 on the campaign. Notre Dame has
still dominated the all-time series, 80-37.
The winner will move into the semifinals against either Villanova or
Connaughton has normally taken a backseat for the Irish but he came up big on
Wednesday hitting key shots from beyond the arc throughout the contest en
route to a game-high 21 points. Tom Knight also stepped into the limelight in
the contest as he put in 18 points to go with nine rebounds.
It's hard to imagine that the Irish could win a game when Jack Cooley (13.2
ppg, 10.5 rpg) finished with just two points. Cooley has been the anchor for
the Irish all season and a threat to throw up a double-double every night.
However the Irish play so well on the offensive end as a team that they were
able to overcome Cooley's rough outing. The Irish are among the national
leaders in both assists (17.3 pg) and field-goal percentage (.468), while
scoring a healthy 70.7 points per game. Jerian Grant (13.3 ppg, 5.7 apg) and
Eric Atkins (11.6 ppg, 6.8 apg) form a backcourt tandem that makes sure the
Irish run smoothly on the offensive end.
The last time Marquette was on the floor at Madison Square Garden it earned a
thrilling 69-67 overtime victory in the regular-season finale against St.
John's. Vander Blue's layup at the buzzer lifted the Golden Eagles to the win
after they had surrendered a 14-point lead in the second half.
Blue (14.4 ppg) is exactly who the Golden Eagles want taking shots in crunch
time after he led the team in scoring. The 6-foot-4 guard had a rough patch
when he failed to score in double figures in three straight games but he had
38 combined points in the final two games of the regular season. No other
starter scores in double figures but Davante Gardner (11.5 ppg) is a real
spark off the bench. As a team the Golden Eagles shoot a solid 46.7 percent
from the field which ranks third in the league while netting 69.1 points per
game. On defense they allow just 62.6 points per game on 40.6 percent
Away from the Bradley Center, Marquette was a mediocre 5-6 this season. Notre
Dame's style of play is more conducive to playing away from home and should
allow the Irish to pull off a minor upset and get back to the semifinals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Notre Dame 70, Marquette 66
03/14 10:32:12 ET