Connaughton scored 23 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds, leading the Fighting Irish to a victory over the visiting Golden Eagles, 76-59.
The freshman shot 9-of-12 from the field and was 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, but what stood out to Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey was the rebounding and defending he got from Connaughton, noting their opponents are yet to recognize his skill set as a whole.
"People are still surprised at how athletic he is," Brey said. "The way he rebounded today in there, he blocked some shots; he was just flying all over the place."
Notre Dame (15-8, 7-3) won its fourth game in a row by shooting lights out, especially in the second half, when they went 8-of-13 from beyond the arc, and 15-of-26 from the field (57.7%).
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said his team couldn't handle the Fighting Irish off the dribble, which led to trouble for his team.
"We couldn't guard them off the bounce," Williams said. "They repeatedly put us in rotation and that's why they shot as many threes as they did."
Senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom started out the game strong for the Golden Eagles, scoring 7 points in the first six and a half minutes of the contest. Johnson-Odom nailed a three-point field goal with 13:30 left in the half to give Marquette their first lead of the game at 11-10.
After a Vander Blue lay-up put the Golden Eagles up 16-12 (their largest lead of the half), Notre Dame responded with a 9-0 run that was finished off by sophomore guard Eric Atkins grabbing a rebound off of a Junior Cadougan miss, and taking the ball the length of the court to put the Irish up 21-16 with 6:48 left in the half.
The Golden Eagles shot 11 of 30 in the first half but struggled finishing at the basket missing five layups. 6-6 sophomore Jamail Jones was forced into playing down low, with sophomore forward Davante Gardner and redshirt junior Chris Otule out, and with redshirt sophomore Jamil Wilson picking up two early fouls.
Jones halted Notre Dame's 9-0 run with a very impressive dunk off a pass from senior Jae Crowder. The Golden Eagles would finish the half in good position, though, only down by 4 at Purcell Pavilion, a place where it is not easy to win.
In the second half, it was all Notre Dame.
With 9:17 left in the game, Marquette was down 54-48, after a Wilson jumper. That would be the Golden Eagle's last basket for five minutes. It also signaled where The Fighting Irish took the game over.
Notre Dame went on a 14-0 run, and took the game by storm by becoming unconscious from beyond the arc. Brey noted Marquette's ability to defend, but with injuries and small roster, he thought the Golden Eagles might have been a bit tired at that point.
"Their speed and defensive quickness really bother you," Brey said. "But the last ten or twelve minutes they're going to get a little fatigued because they have to play long minutes."
Redshirt senior guard Scott Martin scored five straight points, including a three-pointer to start the run. Sophomore Jerian Grant, Connaughton, and Atkins then hit threes as well, putting the game out of Marquette's reach at 68-48 with 4:43 left in the game.
Johnson-Odom had only 2 points in the second half, and Crowder had just 4 points on the game. Brey said that Martin (who guarded Crowder) is the "smartest player in America," and also explained how Grant gave Johnson-Odom little room to work.
"One thing about Jerian Grant, there's nobody faster than him in the league," Brey said. "They do a great job of stagger screening for Odom. Jerian was able to get through there and meet him."
Williams summed it up simply after the game, admitting this just wasn't a game his Golden Eagles were going to win.
"You can't win on the road when teams shoot as well as they did," Williams said.
Williams and the rest of the Golden Eagles will look to rebound from this tough loss on Monday night when they travel to Chicago to take on the DePaul Blue Demons.