And while many Marquette fans knew about the talents of their emerging sophomore forward, the play of Lazar Hayward appeared to take the Fighting Irish by surprise.,”Secrets were hard to come by leading up to Saturday's showdown between No. 15 Marquette and visiting Notre Dame. Everyone knew about the point guard with the nagging injury. Everyone knew about the big man with the dominating presence.
And while many Marquette fans knew about the talents of their emerging sophomore forward, the play of Lazar Hayward appeared to take the Fighting Irish by surprise.
Hayward's play offset the expectedly prodigious efforts of Notre Dame's Luke Harangody, made up for a predictably slow offensive start by Dominic James and led the Golden Eagles to a not-so-foreseeable 92-66 victory over the Fighting Irish.
The 6-foot-8, 251-pound Harangody drew double-team attention all afternoon and still filled the stat sheet with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Harangody scored half of his team's 36 first-half points and was the main reason why the Fighting Irish trailed only by eight at the intermission.
"Today, we could never really get the tempo under control," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "I was encouraged because I thought we finished the half pretty well. A lot of guys for them made big shots or big plays. It wasn't one or two guys; seven, eight, nine guys made big plays at key times."
Whereas Notre Dame offered scant offensive help for its go-to stud, the Golden Eagles provided several outlets for their playmaking needs. Hayward posted 17 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guards Jerel McNeal and James did their parts as well, scoring 18 and 16 points, respectively. Junior guard Wesley Matthews added 15 points as well.
James wore a brace on his right wrist after suffering a sprain during Tuesday night's 61-56 win over Seton Hall. He did not practice Thursday but was a full participant at Friday's workout.
After shooting 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, James scored 13 points during the second.
James was "much better in the second half; he was pressing a little bit in the first half," Marquette head coach Tom Crean said. "He came in trying to find his way, but all he had to do was settle down and move the ball."
While questions surrounded James' health heading into the game, they also arose over how Marquette planned to contain Harangody. When the two teams met last season at Notre Dame, the sophomore forward scored 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven assists.
"I don't know if he kind of snuck up on us last year, but we're aware of how he plays and what he likes to do," Matthews said after Friday's practice. "We're aware that he's going to bring it every possession, and we've got to match that."
The Golden Eagles tried a number of ways – read: bodies – to match Harangody's efforts. Junior forward Dwight Burke started the game but was subbed out after two and a half minutes. Senior forward Ousmane Barro took his turn next but got into quick foul trouble. Senior forward Lawrence Blackledge gave it a shot as well.
"We did a pretty good job on him in spurts, but I think that was a real good test for us," Hayward said.
In the end, the best strategy for Marquette appeared to be to declare Harangody's prolific production a forgone conclusion and focus on shutting down the other four Fighting Irish players on the court. Take away Harangody's 10-for-17 shooting performance, and Notre Dame shot 31.7 percent from the field.
Marquette further flustered the Fighting Irish's supporting cast by forcing 24 Notre Dame turnovers. Hayward and James led the team with four steals each. Matthews recorded three.
"We have the same game plan going into each game, and it always starts with ball pressure," Hayward said. "Coach makes us pressure the ball all the time, and we've been keeping our hands active."
The Golden Eagles rarely allowed Notre Dame's defense to get set, running its transition offense whenever the opportunity arose and taking shots early in the possession when forced to run its half-court offense.
But those are typical components of Marquette's style of play. Brey and his Fighting Irish knew that was coming. No secret there.
What they didn't expect was a final score so definitive. "I did a double take to make sure that counted for one loss," Brey said. "They were fabulous."