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Men’s Basketball: Irish and Marquette set for showdown in noisy Bradley Center

Bobby Griffin | Friday, January 20, 2006

Notre Dame is familiar with top scorers, given point guard Chris Quinn’s 24 points per game in four Big East contests – good for second in the league behind Rutgers guard Quincy Douby’s 26.

But they will encounter another offensive threat who has been just as effective in league play when the Irish travel to Marquette tonight for a 9 p.m. game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

Golden Eagles senior forward Chris Novak is averaging 22.6 points per game in five Big East games, including a 41-point performance against Connecticut on Jan. 3.

Irish coach Mike Brey stressed the need to contain the forward who has been a Marquette staple for the past few seasons.

“You want to try to control Novak a little bit,” Brey said. “He’s been just fabulous, especially in that building with what he did against Connecticut.”

Quinn, who has scored more than 30 points twice in the last four games, described Novak as a dangerous player who is able to score several ways.

“Novak is stepping up and shooting it,” Quinn said. “For a tall player at 6-[foot]-10, he’s definitely one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. Its something we definitely have to be ready for.”

Novak is not the only weapon for Marquette. Freshman point guard Dominique James is averaging 19 points and 5.2 assists per game in Big East play, numbers that have earned him respect from Brey.

“James is playing as good as any guard in the league,” Brey said.

Brey said the Irish need to continue to put points on the board in addition to playing smart defense and forcing critical turnovers. Marquette is very good at finding grooves at home, evidenced by its 94-79 win against Connecticut.

“They’ve gotten on big runs at home in their building,” Brey said. “Our big thing is just being able to get key stops. We’re not going to smother you defensively. We’re not built like that.

“We’re not going to turn you over, but can we be a good position defensive team, can we get the key defensive rebound, and the key loose ball.”

The Irish are coming off a turn-around performance at home against Providence in which they exploded for 92 points in a 15-point victory. They had dropped their previous three league games.

Brey hopes the Providence game will be a turning point in the season and the Irish can build momentum from the victory.

“I thought that we played our hearts out for the first three games and had nothing to show for it,” Brey said. “There is never an evening out in the league, you have to make things happen for yourselves, but I think coming out of the locker room after a league win, you’re feeling better about yourselves.”

Even though the Irish are 1-3 in Big East play, overall they are outscoring their opponents by 8.7 points per game. Notre Dame lost by three to Pittsburgh and by six to DePaul and Syracuse.

As much as the Irish hope to get a win at Marquette, the team understands road games in the Big East are difficult regardless of the opponent. Brey said Notre Dame views every team as a dangerous opponent in their respective buildings.

“When you think about road games in our league, no matter who you are playing, you are thinking can we steal a road win,” Brey said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a team that hasn’t won a league game or is undefeated at home.”