"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, January 26, 2009

Irish no match for Road Warriors

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.

Media Updates

For more on Al, here is his New York Times obit.


Championships Matter said...

All right! We have a wonderful, hard-fought victory indicative of what one would expect from a senior-led team that is beginning to gel as a unit.

We needed this badly to assert ourselves as a legitimate 8.

Ahhh, it sounds like the old days. "Marquette University. This week, ranked 8th in AP and 8th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll!"

Damn straight Al would be proud!

Bean said...

Next opponent Georgetown. With a win against that team I hope the analysts will start to talk about MU as a contender and not overrated. What a great and exciting win. Every road game is hard but the big 4 stepped up.

BlackandGreen said...

Tough loss for our guys. Good game, as always. I always appreciate the rivalry between our two schools and how well Marquette travels to the Joyce Center. Here's hoping we get another crack at you in the BET.

Tony said...

Awesome. Thank you for that odd footage of Al. Had me chuckling to myself throughout the 18 seconds or so.
Great win. Chance to garner some respect in ourselves, more importantly than anything else. 6-0 of the bottom half, is a necessity. 1 down, a lot to go.

bamamarquettefan1 said...

We got our Sportscenter credibility tonight, including a basic 3 minute commercial on Marquette,and Jay Bilas saying we could win the Big East. AWESOME!

Oliver said...

You were spot on crediting Buzz with adjustments. He flat-out won the coaching battle last night.

I always complain about Acker's on-ball defense, but he recognized that against a player like MacAlarney he would be very effective. He (and the players) also didn't panic when Harrengody started to score and let him wear down against Matthews/Lazar. It is difficult to trade baskets with Marquette.

James said...

There are several reasons why I will cherish this victory, but none as important at hearing Jay" I want to make love to Duke" Bilas say..and I quote.. "they could win it all." Now, this could be in reference to the Big East Title or the National Title. Either way, I like what I am hearing. GO MARQUETTE!

John said...

Hey, its great we are up in the rankings, but let's be a little cautious. We still haven't met the toughest of the opponents. Still lots of super tough teams such as Louisville, Pittsburgh, UCONN, Syracuse, Georgetown and again Villanova away. And definitely have to be careful regarding trap games. But at least we have the feeling we can play with anyone (and hopefully win).

Gene Frenkle said...

Hopefully win? C'mon. At this point, we should expect to win...just not get carried away when we don't.

As someone who was livid over Buzz' hiring (more so over the process than against him), he's done an awesome job of in-game adjustments...more so than Crean ever has and that pain's me to say.

That being said, it's awesome to have a feeling that we can/should beat anyone on the court. I love this team right now.

And James' PG play (occassional poor shot selection withstanding) is awesome.

gkrauska said...
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Greg Krauska said...
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Greg Krauska said...

Big East Haiku:

Al's gone 8 winters
the team travels to South Bend
Irish left weeping