No. 15/15 Marquette Golden Eagles (19-4, 8-2 BIG EAST) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-8, 6-3 BIG EAST)
Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center –South Bend, Ind.
12:00 PM CST Saturday
Broadcast Team: Kevin Harlan (play-by-play) and Greg Anthony (analyst)
Following a seven point victory over Seton Hall, the Golden Eagles will travel to South Bend, Ind. to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday. Both Marquette and Notre Dame are among the Big East's elite teams thus far, as they rank second and fourth in the conference, respectively.
Notre Dame has really gotten into a groove lately, having won three consecutive games. With two of those victories coming over ranked opponents, the Irish have distinguished themselves as one of the nation's hottest teams.
First, they hosted Syracuse and handed the Orange their first loss of the season. With Fab Melo out, Notre Dame's junior forward, Jack Cooley, was able to score 17 points and grab 10 rebounds en route to a nine point home victory for the Irish.
Next, Notre Dame beat the Seton Hall Pirates by a 13 point margin after leading at halftime by only one. Jack Cooley registered yet another double-double in that game, putting up 13 points and cleaning the glass to the tune of 11 rebounds.
Cooley has really come into his own recently, averaging 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds during Notre Dame's winning streak. With Tim Abromaitis out for the season, Cooley will likely be an integral piece to Notre Dame's success for the remainder of this year.
Most recently, the Irish slipped past a struggling Connecticut Huskies team by a score of 50-48. Notre Dame's "burn offense", a strategy of simply holding the ball, milking the clock, and limiting opponent's possessions worked perfectly, as they never trailed in the second half.
Buzz Williams briefly addressed Notre Dame's style of play after Marquette's game against Seton Hall on Saturday. "They just take the air out of the ball," Williams said. "Per possession, they're probably as slow as Pitt or Wisconsin." Look for the Golden Eagles to use their athleticism to really get after it on defense, trying to make the Irish get things moving. If Marquette can force turnovers and make Saturday's contest a fast-paced affair, they will have the advantage.
Just as they did against Syracuse, Notre Dame will likely turn to Jack Cooley to take advantage of Marquette's lack of a big man, as Davante Gardner is on a day-to-day basis. Though he plays bigger, Cooley is only six-foot-nine, meaning Jamil Wilson (6-7) should be able to guard him. With his long arms and athleticism, Wilson may try to front Cooley, like he did to Seton Hall's Herb Pope, playing him before the pass.
Offensively, Marquette has thrived when finding sparks from unlikely sources. Of course Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom always put up solid numbers, but Jamil Wilson, Todd Mayo, Davante Gardner, and Vander Blue have stepped up in recent games, spurring Marquette to victory. It will likely take another such surprise performance for the Golden Eagles to find victory over Notre Dame.
Marquette will look to improve their road record (currently 3-3) on Saturday when they travel to the Joyce Center in South Bend, where the Irish are 11-1 this season. In a battle between two hot teams, something will have to give. Tipoff will be at noon CST and the game can be seen on CBS.
Preview: Notre Dame
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