Falls earned some history in the process. He became the all-time Big East leader in made three-point field goals by nailing four from behind the arc. Falls' last three-point dagger came with 3:17 left and pushed a 10-point lead to an insurmountable 75-62 advantage. His play the past few weeks has been critical to the late surge of Notre Dame. Falls has scored 14 points or more in nine straight games. It's a big reason why the Irish finish the year 18-0 at the Joyce Center and it's an accomplishment Falls is proud to be a part of.
"It's a pretty amazing thing," Falls said about the home success. "In the past, we haven't defended our home court well. I think that was a priority this year and a goal. It was important and it's a cool feeling that we did it."
Carter had another off-shooting night but got to the free throw line. He connected on 8-of-9 shots from the charity stripe. Carter also put the clamps on Marquette's Dominic James. The speedy Golden Eagles guard was starting to find his groove in the second half when Brey decided to switch Tory Jackson off of him and the taller Carter on him. It worked as James wasn't a factor down the stretch. On a day where two freshmen, Jackson and Luke Harangody, stole the headlines away, the contributions from the two seniors came in handy.
"Usually young guys step forward and do it on Senior Day," Brey said. "Sometimes seniors are really bad on Senior Day. I've been a part of that. Our two seniors were solid as a rock and made plays. We put Carter on James the last 12-14 minutes and that really helped. James was getting by Tory and getting over Tory. That helped us. Falls made big plays and made big shots like he's been done."
There was a ceremony before the game to honor Falls, Carter and walk-on Kieran Piller. The families of the three individuals came out onto the court to be recognized. This was a planned event. What wasn't planned was when Brey told Falls and Carter to say a few words to the crowd after the victory. The words were brief because Falls didn't have any time to prepare a speech.
"Coach Brey told us right after we came out," Falls said about speaking to the crowd. "Russ was asking me what to say and I was asking him what to say. It was a fun thing. We wanted to show everyone the appreciation of the last four years."
***It wasn't a finesse affair between Notre Dame and Marquette on Saturday. It was a classic tug-of-war battle and it led to some flair-ups. Early in the first half, Golden Eagles head coach Tom Crean had to be restrained from not going after Carter. The Irish guard had just turned the ball over and from the TV replay shoved a Marquette defender away from him. Amazingly, no technicals were assessed.
However, there were three technicals issued in the game. James and Zach Hillesland were each assessed one when Harangody fouled Jerel McNeal hard on a breakaway lay-up. Marquette's Dan Fitzgerald received a technical late when he pushed Harangody to the floor after a foul. There were 50 personnel fouls called in the contest and the hard play demonstrated how much this game meant to both teams.
"It was going to be that way," Brey said about the intense play. "You could feel the juice going into this. There was a buildup going in. Both teams were playing real hard. That's why it looked ugly at time because they want to so bad and they're playing so hard. Our fans were great. I've been here seven years. I can't remember a better atmosphere in my seven years. There was a lot of energy in the building."
"It's Big East basketball," Falls said. "We've prepared for it all year and I think it was a culmination of being mentally tough and physically tough. It was back and forth. When they made that run in the second half, we responded and that's what you have to do."
Maybe it's no coincidence that Harangody was involved in a few of the extra curricular going-ons. The 6-8, 250-pound freshman was a beast down low, scoring a career-high 22 points and grabbing a career-tying 13 rebounds. In the second half, most of the offense was going through the youngster. Harangody's big body and physical presence down low adds another dimension to the Notre Dame offense. The Irish rely primarily on the perimeter shot. With Harangody banging defenders down in the paint, another tough option opens up for the Big East's highest scoring offense.
"I threw up a couple of lucky ones there," a humble Harangody said after the win. "I was feeling it there for a little bit. Coach put a lot of confidence in me and that was nice, too."
Brey mentioned that Harangody's passing down low has improved dramatically and sets up his teammates for open shots when defenses collapse on him.
"We've seen that in practice," Brey said about Harangody's production. "We've seen that in games. Maybe not as much in the Big East consistently as before the Big East. Certainly, when we won in the Carrier Dome, he was rolling. I just want him to be confident. I think he hit a freshman frustration level for awhile. But now he's in a rhythm and our team needs to understand that to start the game, low post touches are good."
***Brey wouldn't take the bait. When questioned after the contest about whether he thinks his team is now in the NCAA Tournament, the Irish head coach tried to deflect the query and instead focus on one step at a time.
"We are playing for Big East seeding," a smiling Brey said. "Hopefully you didn't break any of them in the locker room. I threatened them. Certainly, our profile is very solid. We're trying to chase down a bye and our destiny is in our own hands. We'll get some rest and get back into a solid practice regimen."