Marquette and Notre Dame were once traditional rivals on the hardwood, but when they square off Sunday in South Bend, Ind., it will be their first meeting in nearly a decade.
The late-afternoon game will mark the 119th meeting between former Midwest powers and Big East Conference foes.
In the 1970s, Al McGuire and Digger Phelps roamed the sideline when both schools were independent giants — one, if not both teams would be ranked in the top 10.
And when the Golden Eagles and Fighting Irish both joined the Big East in 2005, they would battle twice a year and one, if not both, would be ranked in the Top 25. But when Notre Dame split for the ACC after the 2012-13 season, the series screeched to a halt — until Sunday afternoon’s matchup in South Bend.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey’s squad has the feel of a team from long ago. The Fighting Irish (7-2) have gotten through most games using just six players, though Marcus Hammond’s recent return from injury has boosted Brey’s rotation to seven.
With ND starters playing 32.6 to 37.0 minutes per game, it’s little wonder all five are scoring in double figures, led by Nate Laszewski’s 14.3 points and 8.4 rebounds.
“I love this group,” Brey said on his coach’s show. “I love this team. They have complete ownership of themselves. Certainly they’re old and experienced, and the older nucleus learned how to win last year.”
While Notre Dame features five seniors in its rotation, Marquette coach Shaka Smart has no seniors in his nine-man rotation, which carries out the same “Havoc” pressing principles that took Smart from VCU to Texas to his current post in Milwaukee.
Marquette (7-3) has four double-figure scorers paced by Kameron Jones’ 15.5 points per game.
The key factor should be whether the game is played at the Golden Eagles’ preferred up-tempo pace — they average 82.5 points a game, while Notre Dame is comfortable at a much slower pace, limiting foes to just 67.8.
Smart wants his young guys to be able to carry out the team’s plans for a full 40 minutes. Marquette led by 27 early in the second half Tuesday against North Carolina Central before settling for a 12-point win.
“It’s a level of maturity,” Smart said after the win over NC Central. “We say it’s competitive stamina as well because some people can do it really well for 20 minutes or 30 minutes. But in order to win the big-time games, you’ve got to do it for 40.”
Notre Dame’s Cormac Ryan is on fire lately, making 14 of his 19 3-point shots over the past 3 games.
–Field Level Media