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February 9, 2008
"At Notre Dame, we're halfway smart, so we can add up and trading two for two is all right," Irish forward Luke Zeller said.
The 22nd-ranked Fighting Irish didn't make a field goal in the final six minutes, going 0-for-6 shooting, but was 10-of-10 from the free-throw line during that stretch to hold on for an 86-83 victory over No. 16 Marquette on Saturday.
Asked what happened to his team's shooting, coach Mike Brey joked: "I said, 'Let's just shoot free throws."'
The free-throw line was a weapon for the Irish all game as they had a 19-point advantage there, making 24-of-31 shots while Marquette was 5-of-8. Luke Harangody was 10-of-13 from the free-throw line to finish with 18 points, including four free throws in the final 26 seconds.
James, who scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the final 2:15, missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Marquette coach Tom Crean said James was supposed to pass it but couldn't because he was so well guarded by Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers.
"Give them credit. They really did defend well at the end. No question about it," Crean said.
The game was a sharp contrast to the game last month when the Golden Eagles dominated throughout in winning 92-66 in Notre Dame's worst loss in eight seasons under Brey. Brey said he believes the Irish are a more confident team now.
"Confidence is growing individually and as a group. I just want to keep stoking that," he said.
The victory stretched Notre Dame's home win streak to 34 games, four-shy of the school record set from 1943-48. The last home loss for Notre Dame (18-4, 8-2 Big East) was 80-72 to Marquette on Feb. 25, 2006.
"We made a couple mistakes, turned the ball over, but we still stayed poised no matter what, and that's why we've still got the streak going and we're walking out of here with a win," Harangody said.
Marquette (16-6, 6-5) fell to 1-4 on the road in the Big East and is 3-4 since its big victory against the Irish on Jan. 12.
Notre Dame used a 13-2 run at the end of the first half to take a 46-36 lead, and kept it at about 10 for most of the second half. The Irish moved ahead 76-64 when Jackson, who had 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds, drove inside, spun and scored with 6:22 left.
The Irish had five players in double figures: Kyle McAlarney had 12 points, Zeller had 11 and Hillesland added 10. Harangody had his fifth straight double-double, finishing with 11 rebounds.
Lazar Hayward had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Marquette. David Cubillan added 11 and Jerel McNeal 10 points. Crean was pleased his team didn't get down despite trailing by double figures much of the second half.
"I was really proud of the energy, the effort, the passion and the stick-to-itivness that our guys had throughout the game," he said.
Brey was just happy his team found a way to hang on.
"I am thrilled that we figured out to make free throws," he said. "We were not going to win by 15."