With the Big East regular season crown still up for grabs entering the final week of the regular season, Chris Otule ensured that the Marquette Golden Eagles’ candidacy would remain intact on Saturday.
Scoring a season-high 16 points (on 8-of-8 shooting) and snaring four rebounds, the 6’11”, 275-pound Otule led an MU attack which overwhelmed No. 21 Notre Dame (22-7, 10-6) from start to finish, resulting in a 72-64 victory in front of the second largest home crowd in program history (19,093) at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Coming into the weekend one game behind league-leading Georgetown (who hosts Rutgers on Saturday night) atop the conference standings, Marquette, who shot 59.6 percent of the afternoon, came out swinging and never let off the accelerator.
Connecting on their first eight shots, MU, who clinched a double-bye in the Big East Tournament and extended their home winning streak to 25 games (second in the nation) courtesy of the victory, opened up an 18-6 advantage over the Fighting Irish.
With nine players scoring during the opening frame, the Golden Eagles (21-7, 12-4), who led by as many as 16 points, shot 64.3 percent (18-of-28) in the first half en route to boasting a 41-27 lead at intermission.
For Notre Dame, the offensive onslaught put forth by Marquette likely had Irish head coach Mike Brey’s head spinning, as his club, who outrebounded MU, 30-22, entered the weekend limiting their past two opponents (Pittsburgh and Cincinnati) to 42 and 41 points, respectively.
Otule, who registered a total of 17 points in his last four outings combined, paced the Golden Eagles with 10 first-half points, while Junior Cadougan, playing in the final home game of his collegiate career, added seven.
Behind nine points from junior forward Jamil Wilson, who scored a season-high matching 19 points, Marquette, improving to 38-80 all time against the Notre Dame, opened up a 56-41 advantage with 10:53 to play.
Notre Dame, however, would account for eight of the game’s ensuing nine points to pull to within single digits for the first time since the game’s opening minutes. Ultimately, though, Notre Dame’s charge would prove to be too late.
Offsetting 15 combined points from Zach Auguste and Jerian Grant, who net a game-high 21 points, via a 9-of-12 showing from the free-throw line over the game’s final 4:36, Marquette waltzed to victory for the sixth time over their past eight games.
Notre Dame, who returns to action on Tuesday when they play host to St. John’s, shot 38.3 percent from the field and allowed 70-plus points for the first time since falling to Providence, 71-54, on Feb. 16.
Senior guard Trent Lockett, also playing in his final home game as a member of the Golden Eagles, accounted for eight points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals in 24 minutes of action.
Marquette, who registered 20 assists on 28 made baskets on Saturday, returns to the hardwood on Tuesday, March 5 when they travel to New Jersey to face off against Rutgers (13-13, 4-11) at 6:00 p.m. CT.