Luke Harangody had 29 points for the Fighting Irish Monday night against Marquette's Warriors. He made four of his five free throws, controlled the post for the most part, and made tough (and I mean tough) turn-around jumpers throughout the night.
It wasn't enough for Notre Dame, though, as they fell to Marquette 71-64.
Two words sum up the game from the Warrior perspective: defense and poise.
Before the college basketball season started in earnest, everyone knew about Notre Dame. Harangody was the big man with post moves, running hooks, mid-range jumpers, and a really bad haircut.
Complementing him from beyond the arc would be the aptly named Irish player Kyle McAlarney, the guy that might have influenced a name change for West Bend's most recognizable mural from Touchdown Jesus to Three-Point Jesus. He just never missed.
This is the threat Marquette was determined to stop from tip-off. With two willing perimeter defenders in Dominic James and Jerel McNeal, Marquette had the personnel to contain McAlarney and make Harangody win the game. It was just a question of whether or not they would do it.
A not-so-close examination of McAlarney's final numbers tell the entire story: He played all 40 minutes, shot only 25 percent from the field, and had only nine points. The two defenders I mentioned earlier weren't the only ones who made an impact on the Irish's sharpshooter.
Junior Maurice Acker, a reserve point guard, played 22 minutes and scored no points. The reason he played so much is because of his tenacity in following McAlarney everywhere he went on the court.
No matter what Notre Dame did to try to free up McAlarney (off-ball screens, pick and pops, inside-outside plays with Harangody), he just couldn't shake Acker. It was really spectacular to watch.
The other word I used to describe Marquette's performance was poise. Four of five Marquette's starters were seniors and the fifth was a junior. All this experience kept the Warriors from getting rattled at the Joyce Center as so many young teams have before them. As proof, the team only committed three turnovers all night. That's right. Three.
As well as Harangody played offensively, Marquette's Jerel McNeal played just as well, if not better. McNeal had 27 points, no turnovers, a steal, and two blocked shots, just as many as Harangody.
The difference was everyone else around McNeal. The next highest scorer for Notre Dame, Tory Jackson, had 10 points. The rest of Marquette's Fab Four—James, Lazar Hayward, and Wesley Matthews—accounted for the rest of Marquette's points, scoring 15, 13, and 16 points respectively.
As great of a game as this was for the Warriors, there are still a couple of concerns moving forward. One is the presence of a big man who can score points of his own in the paint. This might remain a concern for the whole season, and I think Buzz Williams is resigned to this fact.
Another is the fact that NOBODY outside the Fab Four scored points. Only one other guy even took a shot. God forbid anything happen to any of them, but if it happens, Marquette will be in a world of trouble, especially with the gauntlet of a schedule coming up.
For now though, Warrior Nation will take the win and the bragging rights from the Irish and carry the momentum into this weekend's big game with Georgetown at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
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