Ten months ago, Notre Dame waltzed into the Bradley Center on Marquette's Senior Day and ruined a perfectly nice afternoon, leaving Milwaukee with a 63-60 overtime victory and denying Lazar Hayward a well-deserved final victory lap. Tonight, with Hayward in the house, YOUR Golden Eagles exacted their revenge and then some, riding a well-balanced scoring attack and a reinvigorated (or perhaps just "invigorated," since it hasn't looked this good all year) defense to a 79-57 thumping of the Fighting Irish.
Marquette started fast in this one, took a break to have a sip of juice, and then roared past the outmanned Irish to the finish line. With 'Zar watching from the baseline, Jae Crowder did a fine Hayward impersonation in the first half, stroking three deep three-pointers en route to nine first-half points. Chris Otule also did work in the opening twenty minutes, scoring on two consecutive trips down the floor -- that qualifies as big news around here, folks -- and converting an and-one and a contested bunny as Marquette looked to work the ball inside. Meanwhile, Notre Dame was running cold, missing seven first-half three-point attempts as both Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough were held in check.
In the second half, the game went from tight -- Marquette led by five at intermission -- to blown open to all-around bludgeoning. Otule opened the scoring in the second half with another and-one opportunity (he missed the throw this time), Marquette hit eleven of its next fourteen shots (and put home seven free throws in the same stretch), and, when the smoke had cleared, the Golden Eagles were up 25 with five minutes to go. M'self, I like to think this dumptrucking was some form of divine justice for Hansbrough trying to steal two free throws in the first half; point guard Eric Atkins was fouled on a drive, but Hansbrough stepped to the line and was prepared to take the ball. Fortunately for MU, Hansbrough is as adept at stealing free throws as ex-Domer Doug Gottlieb is at stealing credit cards, and the officials realized the error and shooed Hansbrough away from the line.
Although it seemed that no one could miss during the crucial second half stretch, senior Dwight Buycks deserves special mention, because dude was hitting everything he threw up: NBA-range threes, layups, free throws; if he didn't already get free tuition, they should've let him shoot the half-court tuition giveaway shot for good measure.
I can keep telling you why Marquette won, or I can just show you this, via StatSheet.com:
Your eyes don't deceive you, friends: on the back of 12 three-pointers and 53% shooting from the field, Marquette's eFG% was a preposterous 65.3% -- not in the sublime second half, but in the game.
When you shoot that well, the defense doesn't need to be good, but in this game it was -- at least, it was a marked improvement over the Pitt game on Saturday. Notre Dame still got its share of open looks from three-point range, but it seemed like there weren't as many "he's wide open, and I mean wide open" (to steal a line from Steve True) opportunities tonight. Whether it was tired legs, tight rims, or Marquette's defense, the Irish never found the range from deep tonight, connecting on only three of 16 three-point attempts.
A few quick notes and the awards, after the jump:
- The first-half substitution patterns for Marquette were a bit odd: players were being subbed in for thirty-second or one-minute bursts, with Otule, Junior Cadougan, and Vander Blue seemingly running around a revolving door for the last fifteen minutes of the half. I believe -- or, perhaps more accurately: I hope -- that this was a concerted effort to run fresh legs at Hansbrough and Abromaitis and try to wear down the thin Irish bench.
- Darius Johnson-Odom was all out of sorts in the first half: he hit his first three-point attempt but then stagnated for the rest of the half, picking up two fouls (one on a bogus charge where the defender couldn't get out of his own way) and finishing with only three points. But, in an encouraging sign, DJO once again left the past in the past and moved on, scoring ten second-half points on two threes, a dunk and two free throws. If you're scoring at home, that's 13 points for DJO to go along with a team-leading five assists.
- Joe Fulce: four minutes, three rebounds, and one pretty reverse layup following an offensive board. All on one leg.
- Jae Crowder finished with a line of 18 points on 6-12 shooting (four of six from deep) and grabbed seven rebounds to boot. I have nothing to add, other than: MAN'S GAME.
- Jimmy Butler once again didn't reach double-digits in field goal attempts, but it sure felt like he was the focal point of the offense in the second half: the team did their best to work the ball to Jimmy on the block, and he responded with a variety of dips and up-and-under moves and even a step-back jumper. Fifteen points, five-of-eight from the field, six boards and four assists. JFB: TCB.
The envelopes, please:
Jimmy Butler Player of the Game Award: I apologize for ever intimating, suggesting, or implying that I was thinking about canceling our shipment of I LIKES BUYCKS T-shirts. When you score 21, hit all five of your three-point attempts (and, hell, I don't think any of 'em even touched iron, such was their purity), and dish out four assists, we're willing to overlook the four turnovers and give you the JFB POTG Award. Good work, Dwight Buycks.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: Fulce's rebounds-per-minute were off the charts, but we'll give the nod to fellow big man Chris Otule tonight. He only grabbed three rebounds in 18 minutes, sure, but he chipped in two blocks to go along with his eight points.
Play of the Game: Which three-pointer by Buycks do you prefer? I'm partial to the 35-footer he hit with the shot clock expiring with about eight minutes to go in the game. That, my friends, was a heat check: "Maybe this will go in. Heh, look at that. It did."
Up Next: Marquette travels to the KFC / Papa John's / Taco Bell / Insert Your Own Fast Food Chain Here YUM! Arena for the first time this weekend, as the Golden Eagles and Louisville Cardinals renew hostilities on Saturday at ... ugh, 10 a.m.? We're doing that again? Whatever, at least I can watch this one in my jammies.
Til then: Ring Out Ahoya, far and near.