Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey was just happy his team stayed in the game. "They're really good. They get down the court as fast as anyone. We were trying to get the game under control. Thank God they got tired and couldn't run for 40 minutes."
Notre Dame took control under the boards, and started scoring under the basket. The Irish were led by forward Luke Harangody's 22 points and 13 rebounds. The Irish took the lead in the game for the first time with just over a minute left in the first half, and went into the locker room up by six.
Marquette Coach Tom Crean was disappointed in his team's inability to hold the Irish off. "We didn't block out. We didn't make big stops. They hit some big shots. You can't win the game at the twelve minute mark, the eleven minute mark, the ten min mark. They were making baskets at the rim. Foul shooting was a major difference in the first half." The Irish hit twelve of fourteen free-throws in the first half, against Marquette's four of six.
Marquette had a difficult time hanging on in what became an increasingly physical game. Irish Coach Brey was pleased with the way his team came out to play Saturday. "Now that was a great afternoon of Big East basketball. A very physical game." When asked if the game reminded him of some of the legendarily physical Big East games of the past, Brey demurred. "It hasn't changed much. This is still a physical league. One thing about this team, we can play physical with you. It was gonna be that way. There was a lot of juice going into this. Both teams were into it. That is why it looked ugly some times, because both teams were so intense."
Meanwhile, Crean seemed not as pleased with the physical nature of the game, most notably when Irish senior Russell Carter's elbow found Marquette sophomore Jerel Mc Neal's stomach. "Must have been the only guy in the arena who saw what I did with the shot with the elbow, but I don't know. It is a rivalry game. The complexion of the game changed in the first half. A physical game. We were a little too physical getting into foul trouble."
Marquette made a run at Notre Dame in the second half, cutting the Irish lead to two, but eventually, ran out of gas as the Irish continued to control the paint. Crean offered some explanation for his team's porous defense. "We have to get more solid on D, but we had a lot of odd combinations, just because we were subbing so much. We had to zone a lot and that was just to keep people in the game."
Things nearly got out of hand late in the second half, when Harangaody brought down Mc Neal with a hard foul on a breakaway to the basket. Mc Neal returned shortly thereafter, and the public address announcer issued a warning to the Notre Dame fans, urging them not to throw anything on the floor. "I'm fine," Mc Neal said. "As far as I can see it was a good play. He went for the ball. It's basketball." His teammates reacted a little more strongly, particularly when a few objects hit the court where Mc Neal was still sprawled out. Marquette's Dominic James and Notre Dame's Zach Hillesland were assessed offsetting technical fouls in the aftermath.
The win all but locked up a first round bye in the Big East tournament for Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Marquette dropped to 9-6 in conference play. If the Golden Eagles can beat visiting Pittsburgh Saturday, it would set up a probable rematch between the two teams in the Big East tournament in New York.