NO. 15 MARQUETTE (19-4, 8-2 Big East) AT NOTRE DAME (14-8, 6-3 Big East)
Time/TV: 1 p.m./CBS
Location: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.
Marquette 10 (No. 2 Big East)
Notre Dame 67 (No. 9 Big East)
Line: Marquette +1 (o/u 128)
Marquette Players to Watch: G Darius Johnson-Odom, 6-2 Sr. (18.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.9 apg); F Jae Crowder, 6-6 Sr. (16.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 50.2% FG); G Junior Cadougan, 6-1 Jr. (6.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 1.2 spg). Johnson-Odom, who is the reigning Big East Player of the Week, had a career-high seven assists to go along with 14 points as Marquette defeated Seton Hall, 66-59 on Tuesday. Odom is shooting 39.8 percent from the 3-point line and has hit 30 in Big East play, including three in the victory over the Pirates.
Notre Dame Players to Watch: G Eric Atkins, 6-1 So. (12.9 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.2 rpg); F Jack Cooley, 6-9 Jr. (10.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 59.4% FG); G Jerian Grant, 6-5 So. (12.7 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.3 rpg). Grant leads the Irish in minutes played (766), points (280), free throws made and attempted (84 for 107), assists (105), steals (29), and 3-pointers made and attempted (34 for 93).
Storylines: After opening Big East play 1-2, the Golden Eagles have won seven in a row to get within a game of conference-leader Syracuse. Notre Dame has won three straight, including handing Syracuse its only loss of the season, and is the surprise of the conference at 6-3 after going 8-5 in the non-conference.
Keys: Marquette center Davante Gardner missed the Eagles’ last two games with a left knee strain. His status has been evaluated as day-to-day. Combined with the loss of starting center Chris Otule for the season, Marquette will have an incredibly small lineup Saturday if Gardner isn’t able to play. Expect the Irish to try to take advantage with Cooley and Scott Martin. Notre Dame ranks first in the Big East in scoring defense, giving up 58.2 points per game in league play. The Irish have given up just 49.3 points per game in their last three games – wins over Syracuse, Seton Hall and Connecticut – limiting those three teams to a combined 33.1 percent from the field and 24 percent from the 3-point line. Seton Hall’s 42 points were the fewest Notre Dame has ever surrendered in a Big East game and the Pirates’ 15 field goals made is the fewest the Irish have given up in a Big East contest. The Eagles are second in the Big East in scoring at 76.1 points per game, trailing only No. 2 Syracuse’s 77.4. Marquette shoots 35.3 percent behind the 3-point arc. The Eagles are No. 1 in the Big East, averaging 17.4 assists per contest and they are third with 8.9 steals. They rank third in turnover margin (3.96) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3-to-1). Both teams are strong free throw shooting teams. Marquette is second in the Big East at 71.1 percent; Notre Dame is third at 71.1. Notre Dame has beaten four AP top-25 teams this season - Syracuse, Louisville, Pitt and UConn. The Irish are second in the Big East and 12th nationally with a 1.35-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. They lead the conference and are fourth in the nation in fewest turnovers per game at 10.4. Seven different players have led Notre Dame in scoring this season. The Golden Eagles are 3-3 in true road games this season, including victories in their last two games away from home (79-72 at Providence on Jan. 21 and 82-78 over Villanova on Jan. 28). Notre Dame is 11-1 at the Joyce Center with the only loss coming Jan. 14 against then-No. 14 Connecticut on Jan. 14. That loss ended the Irish’s 29-game home winning streak. They have won 95 of their last 102 home games. This is the 116th meeting between Marquette and Notre Dame. The Irish own a 79-36 advantage in the series. The two teams split two meetings a year ago. Notre Dame beat the Eagles 80-75 in South Bend.
The Bottom Line: South Bend is a tough place for even the best Big East teams to play – and Marquette hasn’t won a marquee game away from home since Dec. 3 against Wisconsin, but the Eagles were very impressive in January and it should carry over to early February.
The Pick: Marquette 76, Notre Dame 67
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 55-29