Marquette made Al McGuire proud tonight.
On the eighth anniversary of his passing, Al's Marquette Warriors stormed the Joyce Center tonight and topped the Notre Dame Fightin' Irish 71-64. All of the Warriors' points were scored by the Fab Four, led by Jerel McNeal's season-high 27 points. Dominic James scored 15 points - - 11 in the second half -- to go with a season-high nine boards and five assists. Wesley Matthews finished with 16 points, while Lazar Hayward finished with 13.
Despite the unbalanced scoring, the story of the game was a series of in-game adjustments by coach Buzz Williams that provided the Warriors with a spark.
Immediately out of halftime, Dominic James' aggressive move to the basket set the tone. Rather than settling for jumpers, the Warriors continued to challenge the Irish in the paint for the duration. The Warriors' defense was exceptional all night, rendering Domer sharpshooter Kyle McAlarney ineffective. Much of the credit goes to the diminutive Maurice Acker who provided ferocious man-to-man defense in his season-high 22 minutes, most of which came in the second half at McAlarney's expense.
Another key adjustment was Williams' decision to go small, very small in the later stages of the game. Williams eschewed conventional wisdom by lining up 6'5" Wesley Matthews on the larger Luke Harangody, giving the Warriors a quicker, tenacious defensive posture that wore down the taller, less athletic Irish. While Harangody finished with 29 points, he only had one made field goal in the game's final 11 minutes.
With the win Marquette (18-2) extends its best-ever BIG EAST conference start to 7-0. Even the folks at Deadspin have taken notice of the Warriors' run to the top of the conference. MU won their 10th in a row overall. The loss extends the misery for the suddenly hapless Irish (12-7), losers of four in a row in BIG EAST action.
After building an eight-point lead midway through the first half, MU went into the break leading 33-30. The game was tight for most of the second half with the Irish riding the remarkable shooting of Luke Harangody to a 53-50 lead with 7:30 remaining.
Refusing to be rattled the Warriors ripped off seven straight points over the next two and a half minutes setting up the final push. From there, the Warriors' remarkable perimeter defense took hold. Notre Dame converted just two field goals in the game's final four minutes.
With the game tied at 59 with 3:18 remaining, the Warriors ran off four in a row to push the lead to 63-59 with less than three minutes to play. After a pair of Kyle McAlarney free throws, Dominic James found Jerel McNeal for a clutch three pointer to extend the lead to five with just two minutes left.
Harangody finished with 29 points and 17 rebounds. McAlarney finished with 9 points on 3-12 shooting. The Irish connected on just 36% from the floor overall and 30% from three-point range. Notre Dame entered the game as the league's top shooting team from deep, hitting 40% from long range.
- AP recap
- Rosiak's newspaper recap of the big win
- Rosiak's quick hits on the win from his blog
- Black and Green
- Chicago Tribune on MU taking a 'must-win' from the Irish
- Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on the win
- Chas Rich on AOL Fanhouse recaps MU's third conference road win
- Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune on MU putting the Irish on the brink
For more on Al, here is his New York Times obit.