Big East tournament a letdown for Golden Eagles

Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com
Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com

At the start of Thursday’s game against Notre Dame, it appeared a double-bye in the Big East tournament had done little to affect the Golden Eagles’ rhythm. Buzz Williams’ squad came out firing, taking a 17-4 lead with a balanced offensive attack.

Unfortunately, a plethora of first-half turnovers stopped Marquette from keeping the Irish down.

“In the first half, we shot 60 percent, but we turned it over 11 times,” Williams said. “Our turnover rate was way too high.”

Senior guard Junior Cadougan said the early lead may have caused Marquette to take its foot off the gas pedal.

“We were up 17-4, and we geared down for a bit,” Cadougan said. “I don’t know why. Playing for a championship, we should’ve just kept it on. Like I said, you can’t sleep on a team like Notre Dame – they’re so smart and poised and did a good job of coming back.”

Garrick Sherman provided a harsh reality check for the Golden Eagles, as the senior center’s layup erased the great start, giving the Fighting Irish a 25-23 lead with 2:48 left to play in the first half.

After storming back to take the lead at halftime, Notre Dame got big contributions from players like Sherman who were considered nonfactors in Marquette’s 72-64 win over the Irish on March 2.

While Sherman, senior forward Jack Cooley and sophomore guard Pat Connaughton all failed to score in the regular season matchup, the trio combined for 40 points and 14 rebounds Thursday. Connaughton led all scorers with 18 points, knocking down six three-pointers.

Williams credited Cooley and Sherman’s impact in helping Notre Dame pull away late.

“I thought they did great,” Williams said. “I think it was 48-50 with 7:03 to play. Of the next 11 points they scored, seven of them were on offensive rebounds.”

Redshirt junior forward Jamil Wilson said he’d seen Sherman play against Louisville and knew all about the impact he could make.

“He had a few key baskets … tipping the ball around the rim and the ball ending up in his hands,” Wilson said. “He finishes well with both hands, so he kind of caught us slipping when we were small.”

Despite a decent defensive effort, the Golden Eagles allowed Notre Dame too many chances from the free throw line, while not taking advantage of their own foul shots.

“We held them to 40 percent from the field, but they also got 30 percent of their points from the free throw line, which is atypical of a Notre Dame team,” Williams said. “Tonight for us, we scored 15 percent (of our shots from the line), and we’re not built like that.”