Marquette improves to 7-0 in Big East as ND suffers 4th straight loss

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Marquette had too much down the stretch for reeling Notre Dame.

The eighth-ranked Golden Eagles had four players finish with more than 13 points, led by Jerel McNeal's season-high 27, while Luke Harangody didn't get much help from his teammates as Marquette beat the Fighting Irish (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today) 71-64 on Monday night.

It was Marquette's 10th straight victory and Notre Dame's fourth consecutive loss, its longest losing streak in three years.

"We wanted it to be a battle of wills and toughness and loose balls and scrums and I felt like we won that battle tonight," said Dominic James, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half. "I'm glad for our guys and the way they played."

It was the second loss in a row at home for the Fighting Irish (12-7, 3-5 Big East), who had won 45 straight at the Joyce Center until losing Saturday to No. 2 Connecticut.

"We're not going to win many games scoring 64 or 61 points like we did the last two, and we had some empty possessions in the last four minutes that really hurt us," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "Marquette made big plays. Veteran guys made big plays."

The Golden Eagles, (18-2, 7-0), who remain unbeaten in the Big East along with No. 7 Louisville, led most of the game, although the Irish tied it with 4:15 to go. Then Marquette finished it on a 12-5 run.

Wesley Matthews, who had 16 points, started the run by making two free throws and scoring on a fastbreak layup after he stole the ball from Tory Jackson. Then McNeal hit a 3 to put the game out of reach.

"He's very impulsive and very instinctive in what he does on both ends of the floor," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "Obviously that was a big possession for us."

Lazar Hayward had 13 points and six rebounds for Marquette and James had nine rebounds.

"That definitely helped us because we're fighting uphill against a team as big as they are," Williams said.

Marquette outscored the Irish 36-20 in the paint despite being outrebounded 47-34.

Harangody had 29 points and 17 rebounds for the Irish, his 12th straight game with at least 20 points and ninth consecutive double-double.

Jackson had 10 points for Notre Dame, which was ranked as high as seventh this season and fell out of the AP Top 25 on Monday for the first time.

"One thing you can't lose sight of is we've taken four punches from really good teams," Brey said. "But you have chances for big wins still on the schedule, and you don't need to get them all. You need to get a couple. But on days like this it looks like you could never get any."

Neither team got any points from its bench, which was a problem for the Irish because Brey didn't start Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers in an attempt to shake things up. Ayers was 0-of-7 from the field, while Hillesland was 0-of-3.

The Irish, who entered the game shooting 44.5 percent and were coming off their two worst shooting games of the seasons, struggled again and finished at 36 percent. Marquette shot 43 percent and had 13 points off turnovers compared to none for the Irish.

McNeal said Marquette's defense was the difference.

"When we do a good job like we did tonight offensively and lock in on defense, we're a hard team to beat no matter who we're playing," he said.