Red-hot Fighting Irish shoot down Golden Eagles

A team finally took advantage of Marquette’s deficiency to close out on three-point shooters. Notre Dame (15-8, 7-3 Big East) knocked down 11 3-pointers, including five from freshman guard Pat Connaughton, in a 76-59 win over the Golden Eagles on Saturday.

The loss snapped Marquette’s (19-5, 8-3 Big East) seven-game winning streak and dropped it into a tie for second place in the Big East with Georgetown.

Connaughton went 5-of-8 from distance, and led the Irish in scoring with 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Connaughton came in averaging just 6.1 points per game, but was one of four Fighting Irish to record double digits in scoring.

Sophomore guard Eric Atkins (18), senior guard Scott Martin (11) and sophomore guard Jerian Grant (12) also tallied double digits.

Notre Dame came into the game averaging just 6.4 made three-point field goals per game and Marquette was allowing opponents to shoot just 32.6 percent from distance on the year, the No. 8 mark in the Big East, but allowed Notre Dame to hit 47.8 percent (11-of-23) of its threes on Saturday.

“You can’t win on the road when teams shoot it as well as they did,” coach Buzz Williams said. “They repeatedly put us in rotation, which is why they shot as many threes as they did.”

The Fighting Irish won its 12th game at the Purcell Pavilion in 13 tries this year, with its only loss coming back on Jan. 14 against Connecticut.

Marquette trailed just 30-26 at halftime, but shot 36.7 percent, compared to 43.3 percent for Notre Dame. Senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom led Marquette with 10 points in the first half and finished with 12 points.

A jumper by Johnson-Odom pulled Marquette to within 42-40 with 14:03 left in the second half, but that was as close at the Golden Eagles would get the rest of the way.

“It was always teetering back and forth there for I don’t know how many minutes there in the second half,” Williams said. “I was just trying to keep them (Marquette) in contention, but they continued to beat us off the bounce and we were scrambling around.”

Three-point baskets by Martin and Grant, sandwiched around a jumper by Martin gave the Fighting Irish a 14-point lead with 6:34 to go to essentially ice the game.

Marquette shot 39.1 percent from the field for the game and was led in scoring by Johnson-Odom and sophomore guard Vander Blue, who each scored 12 points.

Senior forward Jae Crowder scored just four points on 2-of-7 shooting, and was harassed by Martin all game.

“They (Johnson-Odom and Crowder) were never really able to get it going and that’s a credit to both Scott (Martin) and Jerian (Grant),” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Scott Martin is one of the smartest basketball players in the country. He did the job of never letting Crowder get going.”

Junior guard Junior Cadougan also had 11 points and five assists in 32 minutes.

Sophomore forward Jamail Jones played a surprising 19 minutes off the bench, and scored eight points, the most he has scored in a game since scoring 10 points in Marquette’s first game of the year against Mount St. Mary’s.

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