Encore Performance?

Underdog Notre Dame roared back from a huge early deficit for the second time this season to again win going away, 73-65 over No. 3 seed Marquette Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

NEW YORK -- Wednesday night, it was Tom Knight in aid of the sharpshooter, the senior's career-high 18 points helping Pat Connaughton shoot down Rutgers in Madison Square Garden.

Unlike Connaughton, Knight didn't offer an encore career-best effort Thursday vs. No. 3 seed Marquette -- his backup Garrick Sherman, however, did.

The Michigan State transfer scored 16 points in 24 minutes off the bench, aiding the continued hot shooting stroke of Connaughton who led all scorers with 18 in Notre Dame's eight-point victory over the 12th-ranked Golden Eagles.

As it had earlier this season in an improbable comeback from a 19-3 deficit in a win over Pittsburgh, No. 24 Notre Dame trailed big early, falling behind 17-4 to Marquette thanks to a 2 for 17 shooting effort to start the contest.

As they did vs. Panthers just over three weeks ago, head coach Mike Brey's Irish roared all the way back, this time taking a 29-25 lead into the break, courtesy a 25-8 run in the opening stanza's final 10 minutes.

Key to the comeback were Connaughton and Sherman, both of whom scored six points during the run, Sherman's consecutively with an assist to boot for his team on an array of post moves and finishes near the rim using both his right and left hand.

After the dust and dichotomy of the opening 20 minutes settled, Thursday night's second half treated Madison Square Garden fans to competitive basketball at its best, with 18 lead changes or ties in the first 14 minutes.

Notre Dame finally created breathing room near the 3:20 mark when Connaughton stroked a three-pointer after a ferocious offensive rebound by Jack Cooley, the sophomore shooter's offering stretching the Irish lead from four to seven, 59-52.

Marquette's Jamil Wilson cut the lead back to five with under three minutes to play but Connaughton struck again, this time collecting a perfectly timed looping swing pass from Jerian Grant and draining his sixth and final triple of the contest, effectively putting the Golden Eagles away with a 65-57 lead. The Irish hit eight of 10 free throws to close out the proceedings thereafter.

Connaughton hit six of 11 from long range, that on the heels of a six for eight effort Wednesday night in a win over Rutgers. He had missed 37 of his 46 previous shots from long range entering tournament play.

Wilson led the Golden Eagles with 16 points while the guard pair of Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue combined for 26 on 21 field goal attempts.

Helping to offset the determined Marquette guard duo was Irish junior Jerian Grant who hit for 17 while again fighting through a rough shooting night. Grant offset his 4 of 15 field goal effort with an 8 of 9 performance from the charity stripe along with a game-high six assists, six rebounds, and no turnovers.

In aid of Connaughton, Grant hit Notre Dame's only other three point bucket of the game, and at an opportune time, his 25-foot offering giving the Irish a lead at 50-48, one they'd never relinquish over the game's final seven minutes.

Named to the first team all-Big East squad earlier this week, Cooley struggled for the second straight night and for the fourth time in five games, scoring just six points albeit with six rebounds, all in the second half, and most late as the Irish battled to take control of the contest.

Marquette began the contest hitting eight of its first 13 shots.

The Irish then outscored head coach Buzz Williams' aggressive squad 69-48 over the game's final 30:40 minutes, limiting the Golden Eagles to 19 field goals in that span.

That deliberate but continually surge sets up Notre Dame's fourth straight berth in the Big East semi-finals, the longest active streak in the conference.

And for the third straight season Notre Dame finds Louisville in its path. The defending champion Cardinals -- an NCAA Final Four participant last spring -- defeated the Irish in overtime in the 2011 Big East semi's, then handily last March.

Now in its 18th and final season of Big East competition, Notre Dame has never made it to the league's championship game.

The winner of tomorrow night's 9 p.m. tip-off will face the survivor of the Georgetown/Syracuse matchup earlier Friday evening. Both pairings involve teams that faced off twice already this season.


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