Pat Connaughton celebrates after hitting one of his six three-pointers. (USA Today Sports Images)NEW YORK - An early 17-4 Marquette lead eventually crumbled in the midst of a neon green blur, as Notre Dame caught up, matched and then buried the Golden Eagles, 73-65.
The loss means that Buzz Williams and his team won't get a shot at revenge with Louisville, the group that knocked them out in the tournament quarterfinals last year.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame now stands between Louisville and its chance to play for a second straight Big East championship. It comes less than a week after the Cardinals cruised to a dominant 73-57 home victory over the Irish.
"Here we go again," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "When the games have been in overtime, that's when we've gotten our wins. When they've won, they've usually thumped us. I hope it's overtime."
The two teams will square off at approximately 9 ET at Madison Square Garden following Syracuse vs. Georgetown at 7 ET.
Three of those teams (Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame) are headed to the ACC in the near future. Their foothold in the final places in the tournament shows the kind of quality that's leaving for what it believes are greener pastures.
But for at least one more night in New York, those pastures can't compete with the lights of the world's most famous arena.
It brought out the best in Notre Dame, even if it took some time to materialize. Trailing by 13 with 11:09 left in the first half, the Irish climbed back into the game behind two three-pointers by Pat Connaughton and six points from Jerian Grant. A Garrick Sherman layup finally brought the teams square again at 23-23 with 2:48 left in the half, changing the feel and momentum of the game entirely. The Irish rode that wave to a 29-25 half-time lead.
"We got some good things going in transition," Brey said. "To be up four after being down 17-4, I'm ready to have a parade at halftime. We're in great shape."
Marquette managed to keep the game close up until about the four-minute mark, when Grant and Connaughton again buried big shots to pull away. Notre Dame closed out the game on a 19-13 run, notching the biggest upset so far of the tournament. The last time the two teams met on March 2, Marquette rolled at home to a 72-64 win. Connaughton led the Irish with 18 points.
The two biggest differences between the two games? Marquette turned the ball over nine more times than Notre Dame in the conference quarterfinal – as opposed to a near even turnover margin the first go-round – and where both teams shot about 60-percent from the charity stripe in the first duel, Notre Dame hit an incisive 85-percent to Marquette's 58-percent in the rematch. And on top of that, the Irish were capitalizing on nine more free throw attempts.
[Related: Notre Dame wins despite hideous uniforms]
Brey didn't say his team planned it that way, but he wasn't surprised there was a discrepancy in fouls awarded.
"That's really who we are," he said. "When we're in our rhythm, we don't foul a lot. We play our position without fouling. We're a defensive team. We're not gambling. We're not trapping … We weren't able to do that in Milwaukee, but we were tonight."
As a proper toast to the end of this tournament, here's hoping they're able to do it again Friday night, and that it's overtime.
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