Preview: Notre Dame at Marquette
While both No. 20 Notre Dame and No. 22 Marquette have a chance at securing at least a share of the Big East regular-season title, first-place Georgetown may be playing too well for either team to make up the necessary ground. However, the race for one of the four double-byes in the Big East Tournament is wide open, making the Golden Eagles' home tilt against the Fighting Irish on Saturday a critical matchup. Marquette and Notre Dame are two of six teams within 2.5 games of the top spot.
The Golden Eagles are tied with Louisville for second place, one game off the Hoyas' pace. Marquette extended the country's second-longest home winning streak to 24 games in Monday's 74-71 victory over Syracuse. Notre Dame has won four of five after clubbing Cincinnati 62-41 on Sunday and is 4-1 against ranked opponents this season.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, ESPN.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME (22-6, 10-5 Big East): The Irish have been dominant in two unexpected phases over the past two games. Notre Dame ranks seventh in the conference in rebounding (36.5) and 10th in field goal percentage defense (41.1), but has recorded a plus-31 rebound advantage over that span and held Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to a combined 33 percent from the field. The improved effort in those areas helped the Irish match a school record for points allowed in a Big East game (42 against the Panthers) and break it one game later (41 against the Bearcats).
ABOUT MARQUETTE (20-7, 11-4): Sixth man Davante Gardner was nearly flawless against the Orange, scoring a career-high 26 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the floor and 12-for-13 from the foul line. Thanks to Gardner's offensive explosion, the Golden Eagles' bench accounted for a season-high 55 points. For the season, Marquette's reserves are providing 44.5 percent of the team's offense - the third-highest percentage in the country. Gardner also gave the Golden Eagles a decided advantage from the foul line. Marquette shot 29-of-35 from the foul line Monday - including 24-of-28 in the second half - while Syracuse went 5-of-7 for the game.
1. Notre Dame owns an 80-36 advantage in the all-time series.
2. The Golden Eagles grabbed 55.6 percent of their missed shots (13-of-27) against Syracuse - its highest offensive rebounding percentage in a Big East game over the last five seasons.
3. The Irish have averaged 74.4 points in their 10 conference victories, 53.8 points in five league losses.
PREDICTION: Marquette 63, Notre Dame 62
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