Life in the Big East

Marquette handles ninth-ranked Irish at the Bradley Center, 79-57.

Prior to Monday's contest, Notre Dame made its 2011 debut in the A.P. Top 10. The surge from unranked in the pre-season to the nation's elite arrived courtesy a 3-1 conference start and a 14-2 record that included wins over ranked foes Georgia, Wisconsin, Georgetown and Connecticut.

Losses to powerful Kentucky and Syracuse did little to sully the resume.

Marquette opened the week at 11-5 including two losses to teams Notre Dame conquered, Gonzaga and Wisconsin.

Tuesday morning, it's the Golden Eagles sitting a half-game ahead the Irish in the early conference standings after a convincing victory over Mike Brey's Irish, 79-57 at the Bradley Center.

That's life in the Big East.

Marquette endured an 11 for 26 first half shooting effort thanks to sticky perimeter defense, a few timely missed open jumpers (and inside offerings) by the Irish, and oh yeah, by drilling six of eight shots – most of them wide open – from beyond the arc.

The Golden Eagles finished 12 of 17 from long range. Notre Dame countered with a crippling 3 for 16 effort. The Irish entered the contest third among the league's top three-point marksmen at 37.7 percent.

Hanging around

Brey and the Irish were likely pleased to struggle within five of their hosts, 33-28 at intermission. The first 20 minutes featured 18 missed shots by the visitors including several open looks after passes by Tyrone Nash who was consistently double-teamed in the post.

Nine points in the first 11 minutes placed the Irish in an early hole.

In an effort to combat the Golden Eagles perimeter quickness, Notre Dame employed a 2-3 zone defense for several possessions in the opening stanza. The tactic backfired as Jae Crowder knocked down each of his four relatively unmolested offerings and senior guard Dwight Buycks hit two more en route to a career-high 21 points to lead all scorers.

Buycks didn't miss from long range, nailing all five of his attempts.

Conversely, the normally reliable output of reigning Big East Player of the Week Ben Hansbrough was smothered by a pair of strong defensive efforts, most notably that of Darius Johnson-Odom (with occasional switching help from freshman Vander Blue).

Senior Scott Martin tried to keep the Irish close early, scoring nine first half points while collecting nine boards. The still-struggling swingman finished just 4 of 15 from the floor including a vexing 1 of 6 from the arc. Martin finished with 11 boards, a career-high.

Head coach Buzz Williams group used an 18-7 run over the first eight minutes of the second stanza to seize control of the contest, 51-36 with 11:50 remaining. From there the Irish folded, falling behind 71-46 near the five-minute mark.

Aiding Marquette's cause were Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, finishing with 15 and 13 points respectively. Butler added six boards and four assists in a game-high 37 minutes.

Freshman point guard Eric Atkins led the Irish in scoring for the first time this season, finishing with 15 points but missing five of six looks from long range. For the second time in three Big East contests, Atkins did not commit a turnover in 35 minutes of court time.

Atkins entered 10th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio but was limited to just two assists by the continuous perimeter pressure of the Golden Eagle guards.

Senior Tim Abromaitis added 10 but was limited to just eight shot attempts and a lone free throw. The Irish shot just 17 freebies (missing five). It's a common theme in the team's three losses this season as Brey's group hit just 12 free throws (8 misses) vs. Kentucky and only 5 of 7 at Syracuse.

Notre Dame will receive a much-needed respite after a Saturday night/Monday night pair of games over the weekend. The Irish travel to Madison Square Garden for a Sunday rematch with St. John's, a team they defeated by 15 just 45 hours prior to tip-off at the Bradley Center last night.

"I wouldn't have wanted to play horse against them," offered Brey post-game. "You're glad a night like this counts as one loss. It counts as one."

Not too high; not too low.

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