The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Marquette Golden Eagles at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, 73-65, to advance to the semifinals of the Big East tournament.
Marquette jumped out to a huge 17-4 lead before anyone could blink with stellar defensive pressure and superior effort on offense. It looked as though the Golden Eagles were going to outwork Notre Dame in this game, but that quickly changed later in the half.
The Irish went on to finish the first half on a 25-8 run that helped them build up a four-point lead before halftime, despite shooting 37 percent from the floor as compared to Marquette's 50 percent first-half mark.
The second half was a much different story, as both teams battled in a back-and-forth fashion, with neither team getting a big advantage.
In fact, a four-point lead was the biggest advantage either squad could build for much of the second frame.
But just when Marquette grabbed a 48-44 lead, the Irish fired right back with six unanswered points thanks to a three-point play by Garrick Sherman and a three-pointer from Jerian Grant.
After that, the Irish finally created some space after a huge offensive rebound from Jack Cooley led to a three-pointer from Pat Connaughton that gave Notre Dame a seven-point lead, and that proved to be too much for the Golden Eagles to overcome.
Who was the most important player in Notre Dame's victory?
Connaughton was enormously important for the Irish in this game, as he drained six three-pointers, including two big ones down the stretch, and he finished with a team-high 18 points. Sherman put in some serious work for the Irish on both ends of the floor with 16 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Notre Dame will now face Louisville in the semifinals of the Big East tourney in a rematch of the five-overtime thriller from earlier in the season.
Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.net pointed out how good Marquette looked and just how bad Notre Dame was at the start of the Big East matchup:
Marquette looking like they are going to blow out Notre Dame at MSG. Too fast, intense, tough and deep for them. 17-4 at under 12 timeout.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 15, 2013
NFL public relations senior vice president Greg Aiello gave the Fighting Irish a new name for this game after seeing their bright green jerseys:
WSBT radio host Darin Pritchett was thrilled to see a Big East contest actually live up to the hype:
Andrew Gruman of FOXSportsWisconsin.com tweeted how the Irish fired back and took the lead after falling behind by four:
Six straight from Notre Dame and Marquette trails 50-48 with 7:03 left. Gardner at the line after the timeout. #mubb— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) March 15, 2013
Matt Zemek of CFN.Scout.com summed up the second half between Marquette and Notre Dame perfectly:
Notre Dame and Marquette, after a lousy first half, have played a pretty darn fun second half.— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek_CFN) March 15, 2013
Angelo Di Carlo of WNDU in South Bend expressed just how important Connaughton is to Notre Dame's hopes of making a run this season:
If connaughton can shoot like this in the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame can make the Sweet 16.— Angelo Di Carlo (@angdicarlowndu) March 15, 2013