South Bend, IN – The 15th-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles game road trip this afternoon, taking on a dangerous Notre Dame team at the Joyce Center.
Buzz Williams' Golden Eagles are soaring right now, winning seven straight games after losing back-to-back decisions to Georgetown and Syracuse in early January. The team is now sitting behind only the Orange (9-1) in the Big East standings at 8-2. Marquette's winning ways continued on Tuesday with a 66-59 win over Seton Hall.
Mike Brey's Irish have fought through some adversity this season with the loss of their top player (Tim Abromaitis), but have weathered the storm to remain in the hunt in conference play. The Irish are tied for fourth in the Big East at 6-3 and have won three straight games entering this contest, knocking off Syracuse, Seton Hall and most recently Connecticut (50-48).
The Irish hold a commanding 79-36 lead in the all-time series with the Golden Eagles, but Marquette has won six of the 10 meetings since joining the Big East in 2005.
Jae Crowder was the driving force in leading Marquette to its seventh straight win, as he tallied 20 points and 12 rebounds in the seven-point win over Seton Hall this week. Crowder, who was 6-of-11 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, got double-digit help from guards Vander Blue and Darius Johnson-Odom, who finished with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
One of the reasons for Marquette's win streak is its improved shooting of late. The number have improved the team's overall output, as the Golden Eagles are now averaging 76.1 ppg on a healthy .456 shooting. Johnson-Odum and Crowder are a potent one-two punch. Johnson-Odom ranks third in the Big East in scoring at 18.3 ppg. Crowder is seventh in the league at 16.6 ppg and leads Marquette in rebounding (7.6 rpg). The two present problems for the opposition out beyond the arc, combining for 95 of the team's 139 three-pointers to date. No one else is averaging double figures at this time, but Davante Gardner (9.8 ppg) and Todd Mayo (9.0 ppg) aren't far off the mark.
With Abromaitis going down early on, the Irish have had to scramble at the offensive end. There isn't a true go-to-guy now, but Brey has done a nice job getting the right players on the floor. Eric Atkins leads the team in scoring at 12.9 ppg and is actually shooting better from three-point range (.408) than overall (.400). Jerian Grant runs the offense and is both a solid scorer (12.7 ppg) and deft distributor (4.8 apg). Jack Cooley provides balance with his strong play down low. The 6-9 junior is averaging 10.7 ppg on nearly 60 percent shooting (.594) and leads the team and ranks seventh in the league in rebounding at 8.4 caroms per contest.
The Irish trailed by three points at the half against the defending national champs, but did what was needed after the break to scratch out a win in a low- scoring game. Notre Dame didn't shoot the ball particularly well at a mere .362 clip, but did knock down seven three-pointers compared to three for the Huskies. Atkins led the way with 13 points in the win. Grant finished with 11 points and six assists, with just one turnover in 38 minutes of work. Scott Martin chipped in with 10.