Men’s Basketball: Irish hold off late run to beat Eagles, avenge January loss
Fran Tolan | Monday, February 11, 2008
What a difference a month makes.
No. 21 Notre Dame got double-digit scoring contributions from five players as it defeated No. 16 Marquette 86-83 at the Joyce Center on Saturday, providing the Irish with sweet revenge for a 92-66 loss in Milwaukee on Jan. 12.
“I think it’s a step forward for us,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I just think in the last few weeks we’ve become more confident … individually and as a group.”
The Irish didn’t score from the field for the last 6:21 of the contest but made all 10 of their free throws during that span as they held on for the victory – their 34th straight at home.
“This is a team win for us,” Irish point guard Tory Jackson said. “There were no individual stats that really stood out. It was a lot of things we did as a team; free throws were big for us today.”
Notre Dame led 80-70 with 3:22 remaining in the game but Marquette put together a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to one with 32 seconds to play.
After Irish forward Luke Harangody made two free throws to give his squad the 10-point cushion, Marquette guard Dominic James nailed a pull-up jumper in the lane. James then stole the ball from guard Kyle McAlarney and cruised in for a layup.
The Irish committed turnovers on their next two possessions and Marquette capitalized as guard Jerel McNeal found teammate David Cubillan for a 3-pointer with 1:13 left to bring the Golden Eagles within three points.
Notre Dame then called a timeout but the offense sputtered yet again as McAlarney missed a jumper. On Marquette’s next possession, James drove into the paint for an uncontested layup.
The Golden Eagles forced another turnover but did not take advantage of it as guard Wesley Matthews threw an errant pass.
Harangody eventually came up with the ball and was fouled. The sophomore made two free throws to again put the lead at three.
James made two more easy layups but the Irish got pairs of free throws from Harangody and guard Jonathan Peoples to maintain the team’s three-point lead with 8.1 seconds to play.
“We can absorb [two-point baskets] at that point in the game because I feel we’re gonna come back and make free throws, which we did,” Brey said.
The Irish finished with a 24-5 edge in free throws made.
On Marquette’s final play, the Irish defense clamped down and forced James to throw up a desperation 3-point attempt. The shot did not even hit the rim after Jackson and junior forward Ryan Ayers harassed James, who could not turn his game-high 23 points into 26 and force overtime.
“Tory did a good job of picking him up so the clock started and zigzagging him a little bit, so they’re really only gonna get one shot,” Brey said. “Ryan, at his size, came out … and that was a very difficult shot to shoot over a 6-8 guy with length.”
Four starters and reserve forward Luke Zeller each posted double-digit scoring totals for the Irish.
Zeller came off the bench to hit two 3-pointers and one monstrous dunk on his way to a season-high 11 points.
With 2:58 to play in the first half, Zeller received a pass from McAlarney just in front of the 3-point line and drove hard to the basket before finishing with a lefthanded slam that ignited the crowd.
“We’re seeing with Luke Zeller, the light bulb is on,” Brey said. “It’s great; it’s awesome to see.”
Zeller’s dunk gave the Irish a 37-34 lead and highlighted a 13-2 Irish run to end the half. Harangody converted a dunk of his own just before the halftime buzzer, and the home squad took a 46-36 lead into the locker room.
Harangody led the Irish with 18 points and 11 rebounds but said Marquette did a “hell of a job” on him defensively. He was held to 4-of-12 shooting from the field.
“I think they did a good job on him,” Brey said. “But the man still had a double-double.”
McAlarney had 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting and drilled two 3-pointers from the same spot early in the second half. He made the treys in a 30-second span to help the Irish open up a 54-42 lead. Jackson finished with 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
uIrish senior forward Rob Kurz had a stomach virus and didn’t practice Friday. Against Marquette, Kurz finished with five points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. Brey said Harangody and forward Zach Hillesland were also sick during Saturday’s contest.