MU Makes Statement, Beats Irish

Jerel McNeal's 18 points and Lazar Hayward's double-double led Marquette in a home win over storied rival Notre Dame.

"Have they played better than that?"


Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey posed the question to the Marquette media after the Golden Eagles beat his Irish 92-66.  It would be hard to argue against his point.


A strong first half performance and two huge second half runs helped Marquette crush Notre Dame's hopes of starting 3-0 in the Big East, as it won Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center.


"They were fabulous," said Brey.  "They had a great offensive rhythm.  I don't think they've mad 12 three-pointers this year.  They shot it well and their speed really took its toll on us.  We couldn't get into an offensive rhythm because of their team speed and team defense."


It was a big day for Marquette's offense, with five Golden Eagles shooting in double figures for the third time this season.  Lazar Hayward led the way, notching his second career double-double by scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.  He is also the only Golden Eagle to have recorded a double-double this season.


"He played outstanding," said Marquette head coach Tom Crean.  "He caught fire and made some shots early. He helped us get off to the lead."


Hayward scored 15 points in the first half and also added four steals.  


"He's the most improved player in the Big East," said Brey.  "That's the guy I would probably vote for right now."


Jerel McNeal led the Golden Eagles in points with 18, and Dominic James added 16 points and seven assists. Wes Matthews and David Cubillan rounded out the quintet of high-scorers, recording 15 and 11 points, respectively.


"A lot of guys for them made big shots and big plays" said Brey.  "It wasn't just one or two guys. Seven, eight, nine guys made plays at key times."


MU jumped out to a quick start, scoring off the opening tip and keeping their lead for the remainder of the game.  With 11:05 to play in the half Cubillan brought the crowd to its feet by hitting a three to beat the shot clock, putting Marquette up 23-11.  A three-pointer by Irish guard Kyle McAlarney closed the Notre Dame deficit to 28-24 with just under six minutes to go in the half, but the Golden Eagles went on a quick 7-0 run to bring their lead back to double digits. 


In the second half, Notre Dame was able to close the gap to five points on a three-pointer by Rob Kurz with 17:12 to play.  Marquette proceeded to go on a 20-5 run, highlighted by a Lawrence Blackledge block on Luke Harangody that was followed by a Cubillan three-pointer at the other end, to extend their lead to 66-46.  Marquette later went on an 18-3 run, capped by a Dominic James free throw at 4:31, to give them a 30 point lead, their largest of the game. 


"It was a great win for us, and a statement win for us," said Crean.  "Not a statement on the outside, but a statement on the inside – that we could play this way and that we could follow a game plan.  We had to deal with adversity and we had to deal with the foul trouble, but we were able to get through it."


The Golden Eagles also received a strong performance from Blackledge.  In 14 minutes, the senior recorded six points and two blocks while playing strong interior defense.


"I'm going to give my wife credit on that one," said Crean.  "I walked into the film room and said, ‘Joanie thinks if we get in any trouble with Harangody, we should put Trend on him,' and there was dead silence. When a guy scored 29 points you can't feel that good about how you defended him, but Trend did come in and cause some havoc and caused some length problems for Luke."


Marquette was especially impressive from the three point range.  As a team they shot 50.0 percent from behind the arch, and hit a whopping 63.6 percent of their three-point shots in the second half.  Cubillan made three of his five attempts, James hit three of six, and Hayward sunk two of his three attempts. 


"We were getting stops and were off and running," said Hayward. "I think that is when we are at our best.  I think the shots were just there and we're taking them as long as we get good shots." 


Marquette's offensive outburst could not overshadow a stellar defensive performance.  Coming in to the game, the Irish were shooting 42.3 percent from three-point range and hitting an average of 8.5 deep balls per game. The Golden Eagles held them to 4-19 from three (21.1 percent), and their defensive pressure helped them to pick up 29 points off of 24 Irish turnovers.


Luke Harangody matched his career high with 29 points on 10-17 shooting for Notre Dame. He committed only one personal foul, while the three Marquette players that guarded him combined for 13 personal fouls.  Harangody also grabbed 14 rebounds for the Irish. 


"He's one of the best players in the country," said Crean.


Harangody previously reached the 29 point mark two weeks ago against West Virginia in Notre Dame's Big East opener.



 "We actually wanted to do a lot better job than we did of limiting his post touches," said McNeal.  "We didn't do a great job on him, but at the same time it would be hard to have one guy come out and beat you.  We did a good job of shutting the other four guys down."


Marquette was able to effectively shut down Notre Dame's two sharp shooters, McAlarney and Ryan Ayers.  McAlarney, who shoots 45.4% from three point range, was held to only two three-pointers and Ayers, who averages 49.2%, was unable to sink any three-point shots. 


The win was also Marquette's 250th at the Bradley Center.


The Golden Eagles return to action January 17 as they take on the Louisville Cardinals at Freedom Hall.



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