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Men’s Basketball: Home court advantage

Andrew Owens | Thursday, February 2, 2012

After a week off following their 50-48 road defeat of No. 24 Connecticut, the Irish return to Purcell Pavilion to face conference rival No. 15 Marquette.

Notre Dame (14-8, 6-3 Big East) has won its last three games, two of which came against ranked opponents, to climb into the top quarter of the Big East conference standings.

“To be 6-3 halfway through the league [play], if you would’ve told me that after the Indiana game or after Missouri beat us by 29 … I’m really proud of this group and it’s a lot of fun working with them and you can see them getting more confident every week,” Irish coach Mike Brey said.

Marquette (19-14, 8-2) is one of only two teams in the Big East with fewer conference losses than the Irish, as it comes into the weekend a game behind Syracuse.

“I couldn’t be prouder of a group of what we’re becoming,” Brey said after his team’s win at Connecticut last weekend. “The run we’re on right now to beat a really good team here — the key is, with us, we really controlled the tempo and that takes its toll on a team over 40 minutes when the rhythm’s not there. “

The Irish have controlled the game’s tempo for much of their Big East action. In Notre Dame’s six conference wins, only once has an opponent scored 60 or more points, and it took double-overtime for Louisville to do so in Notre Dame’s 67-65 victory at the KFC Yum! Center on Jan. 7.

“I think the tempo, first of all, is a big effect,” Brey said. “[Opponents] don’t get as many shots. There’s not as many possessions, so I think it can really affect talented offensive guys, but our defense was excellent. “

On the offensive end, the Irish have benefitted from the breakthrough of sophomore guard Jerian Grant, who Brey said continues to grow in confidence.

“He’s been fabulous,” Brey said. “He’s done a really good job on [Connecticut guard Jeremy] Lamb in both games. The key with Jerian now is he really wants the ball at the end and we want him to get fouled. He has no idea how good he can be. I’m thrilled to have three more seasons after this with him.”

For the Golden Eagles, senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom and senior forward Jae Crowder combine for just under 35 points per contest — the only Marquette players to average double-digits in points. Despite the offensive firepower from those two, the Golden Eagles are a deep squad, with eight players averaging five or more points per game.

Notre Dame and Marquette will tip-off Saturday at 1 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.