Monday broke ominously for head coach Mike Brey and his Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish men’s basketball team.
Still reeling from a 69-61 defeat at the hands of the UConn Huskies—ND’s first loss at home in 45 games—the Irish found little reason to re-"Joyce" as they found themselves in the AP category of "others receiving votes" for the first time this season.
On deck for the Irish were the surging Marquette Golden Eagles—winners of nine in a row and sitting atop the Big East with Louisville at 6-0.
Searching for answers, Brey had decided upon lineup changes for his starting five.
Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers would come off the bench. Jonathan Peoples and Luke Zeller would start.
The latter decision would cause some to wonder if Brey might have left his mock turtle in the high heat cycle for too long—thus causing a drop in blood flow to his cranium.
Any doubters would be silenced as the Irish executed a perfect first possession swinging the ball from side-to-side, going into Luke Harangody who relocated the ball to an open Kyle McAlarney on the opposite side of the floor before continuing to Zeller at the foul line. Irish up 2-0.
Any reason to re-"Joyce" would prove fleeting.
Save for a couple of moments in the second half and the Irish would spend the game trailing the Golden Eagles and falling for the second-consecutive time at home, 71-64.
Their fourth consecutive loss overall dropped the Irish to 3-5 in the Big East.
McAlarney spent the night with a Golden Eagle in his grill at all times.
Without McAlarney as a pressure release Irish point guard, Tory Jackson looked incapable of adapting to Marquette’s defense. It was as if Jackson had never had a line of smack come his way. He seemed insistent on several occasions to try and take on the Godlen Eagle defense single-handedly.
Other than knocking down two open threes, Zeller’s night was capped by a late trifecta attempt that didn’t clang off the rim but rather went clunk off the board.
Harangody compiled his usual numbers—29 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. But late in the game the reigning Big East player of the year struggled and opted to force shots.
Jerel McNeal led the Golden Eagles with 27 on 11-of-23 shooting including 3-of-7 from behind the arc.
Brey and the Irish have little time to heal their wounds. They travel to Pittsburgh this Saturday for a date with the 18-1 Panthers.
Maybe, just maybe, Brey can apply some pressure to the wounds and stop the bleeding.