In front of a record setting crowd of 18,874, senior Steve Novak propelled Marquette to victory with a shot that will go down as one of the most talked about in the history of the Marquette - Notre Dame rivalry. With the score tied at 65 Novak ran through a series of screens and received a pass from fellow senior Joe Chapman. Novak created space with a dribble and, with the hand of Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney in his face, popped a fade-away jumper from about 19 feet 6 inches as the game clock ran down to 1.1 seconds. The shot that sent nearly the Bradley Center into a frenzy would prove to be the difference in Marquette's 67-65 win Friday night.
"As soon as I got the ball they new I was shooting," said Novak. "I just recognized that I was going to be able to shoot it over him. It's what you dream about as a basketball player."
The game winning shot capped the end of the back-and-forth battle that defined the second half. Marquette did not lead until six and a half minutes into the second half, but the final 13:30 included three ties and seven lead changes. As the game came to a close, the Golden Eagle defense buckled down by sacrificing only one offensive rebound in the entire second half and holding Notre Dame scoreless in the final 2:46.
Novak ended the game 6 of 10 from beyond the arc, with a game-high 28 points and added a team-high 6 rebounds. Freshman Jerel McNeal filled up the stats sheet with 12 points, 5 assists, 3 blocked shots and 5 of the team's 7 steals. Dominic James dished out 6 assists and was the third Marquette player to score in double digits with 11 points.
Marquette head Coach Tom Crean attributed a lot of the team's success during the game to the play of McNeal.
"We don't even have a final play at the end without the way that Jerel came back in the second half. He made big plays and big defensive stops," Crean said
For Notre Dame, junior Collin Falls led the Irish with 21 points including 6 three pointers. Senior Chris Quinn was the only other Notre Dame player in double digits with 18. Senior Torin Francis tallied a game-high 10 rebounds but was unable to get going offensively, scoring only 8 points.
Quality minutes from junior Mike Kinsella and sophomore Ousmane Barro were responsible from keeping Francis at bay. Each made significant impacts on the defensive end. Kinsella recorded 3 blocks and Barro grabbed 5 rebounds in the limited time that they were on the floor.
The interior defense impressed Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey.
"I think you have to give them credit defensively. They had them pushed out and we were, and have been, a little more perimeter oriented. We have been having our big guys ball screen to give our perimeter [guards] chances to drive and kick," explained Brey.
Crean commented that the way this game was played, and the way that it ended, secures its place in the history of the great MU-ND games of the past right along side of Bo Ellis' unforgettable shot.
"Without a doubt this will go down as one of the great historical battles in what has been such a long tradition between Marquette and Notre Dame," said Crean.
Crean said that the record setting crowd played a major role in the victory.
"There is no way we win games like this without the energy of these crowds. To have everyone show up in this weather says volumes about our fans, our students and the loyal people who are apart of this. You can't say enough about them," said Crean.
By way of another close loss, Notre Dame slips to 10-6 and takes a disappointing 1-4 conference record into their upcoming game against Georgetown.
Marquette continues to be hot in the Big East improving to 4-2 in conference play and 14-5 overall. The Golden Eagles will host DePaul on Wednesday night at 7pm for the season's second match up with the Blue Demons. The first saw DePaul rally back from 24 points down but Marquette was able to hold on for a 82-79 win.
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