Six three pointers by Connaughton did damage as Marquette let their guard down on the sophomore in the second half. Compared to their last meeting at the Bradley Center on March 3, Jack Cooley was more involved with nine minutes more of action as well as six points and five more rebounds.
Jerian Grant led all scorers with 21 points, but it was Garrick Sherman's quiet 16 points that made a difference in the second half.
Jamil Wilson led Marquette scorers with 16 points off the bench. One bright spot for the Golden Eagles was Junior Cadougan's 6-for-9 game for 14 points.
[Jamil Wilson with an amazing cross lane reverse lay in.]
Coach Buzz Williams had to mix and match in the first half as Chris Otule and Davante Gardner ran into early foul trouble. Notre Dame capitalized and plucked away at the Golden Eagles' lead.
[ND's Jack Cooley helped on the boards.]
What else went wrong for Williams and company? The Golden Eagles turned the ball over 16 times and just made three of its last 17 attempted field goals.
This was the second consecutive year in which Marquette lost their first game of the Big East Tournament. As for the Irish, they head to their fourth consecutive semi-final, where they have lost each time. Three of the four teams in the semi-final will be playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference next year.
Marquette will begin preparing for the NCAA Tournament with practices starting before the selection show on Sunday.
[Junior Cadougan with a bank lay in.]
Buzz Williams was the lone representative for Marquette at Thursday night's press conference. Here's a few snippets of what he had to say to the media.
On the Notre Dame big men... Williams: I thought they did great. I think it was 48-50 with 7:03 to play. Of the next 11 points, they scored 7 of them on offensive rebounds, and then the (third foul on Vander Blue.) I think they had two more offensive rebounds from that point. I thought those guys were great.
On the difference in turnovers from first half to second half... Williams: I think when you get embarrassed on national TV with 11 turnovers against a team that doesn't press you, you hope that you respond in a much more positive way, and I thought our guys did.
Team plans before NCAA Tournament Williams: We'll go home at some point tomorrow. We'll practice before the selection show. Last year we didn't know who we were going to play. Hopefully on Sunday, we'll find out who and where and when we play. Either practice Monday and Tuesday and leave, I would assume, is probably what it will be.
Williams: Win one more game and then win another. We have to be a lot better than we were today.
On learning from the loss...
Williams: The season isn't over. This part of the season is over, but we need to learn from it and grow from it and then flush it out and begin to prepare for whomever we're going to platy next week.
On Marquette killer Pat Connaughton...
Williams: I don't know that he took one dribble. That's really good. I don't mean that in a negative way. I mean, somebody else created a shot for him. That means you were in the rotation,and he was standing there. He made six out of 10 balls. He did the same thing last night.
That's the thing. You have to guard the ball screens with Atkins and Grant. It puts you in the rotation because Cooley, Knight, Sherman and Zach are all rolling. So now your guards have to absorb, and then Connaughton is standing out there waiting on somebody to pass him the ball.
They had 17 offensive rebounds at our place and they had 12 tonight. We held them to 40 percent from the field, but they also got 30 percent of their points from the free-throw line, which is atypical for a Notre Dame team.
And then tonight for us, we scored 15 percent, but we're not built like that. We played 39 minutes until we got into the bonus. That's not good for us.