After shooting well in the early part of the conference schedule, Marquette comes into the game in a bit of a shooting slump. The Eagles have made just 39.4% of their shots over the last three games, 30.7% from three point range. They're just 1-2 in those games, the lone win coming against last place South Florida.
Shooting slump or not, Marquette will stay in the game with pressure defense. Mike Brey said, "Here's a team that really defends. Marquette's (defense) is disciplined. It's up. It's in you. They don't lose guys very much, and it's very physical."
Indeed, the Eagles quick, deep, and hard nosed guard corps applies constant pressure on the ball. The result is 8.3 steals per game, fourth best in the Big East, and a +3 per game turnover margin, third in the conference. How Notre Dame, the conference leader in assists but just 14th in turnover margin, performs against Marquette's pressure will decide the game. "That's my biggest concern," said Brey. "I don't know if there's another key to the game."
One Golden eagle who isn't struggling with his shot, at least from three point distance, is forward Lazar Hayward. He is making threes at a remarkable 57.7% clip in conference games. Hayward's bane has been foul trouble, 3.5 per game limiting him to just 25 minutes on the floor; so look for the Irish to take him to the basket at every opportunity. The best way to stop his shooting is to send him to the bench.
The Irish will start the game leading the conference in scoring, assists, free throw shooting, and rebounding margin. Luke Harangody is the Big East's #1 scorer and rebounder with 21.4 points and 11.8 boards per game. Kyle McAlarney is the conference's top three point shooter. Look for ND to pound the ball to Harangody in the post and try to move the ball inside out when he's double teamed.
When you can, pay attention to the Dominic James – Tory Jackson match-up. Each guard is only the #4 scorer on his team; but both are small, fast, quick, and tough. Jackson is leading the conference in assists; but although he's climbing the rankings after a slow start, he is only 13th in assist/turnover ratio. James has taken better care of the ball throughout the season, #5 in assist/turnover ratio, but Jackson is leading the conference in steals. These two will go after each other whenever both are on the floor.
The answers to three questions will determine the outcome:
1. How often will Marquette's relentless pressure disrupt Notre Dame's half court offense?
2. How well will Marquette defend Harangody in the post?
3. How well will Marquette shoot from the outside?
We'll know a lot five minutes into the game.
Marquette Golden Eagles vs. the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Saturday, February 9th, 12:00 EST
Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN
Television – ESPN
Radio - WNDV "U93", 92.9 FM in South Bend; WLS , 890 AM in Chicago, ESPN Radio "XL950", 950 AM in Indianapolis, and other outlets throughout the USA.
Internet Radio Links - http://und.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/nd-m-baskbl-body.html and http://www.xl950.com/