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January 20, 2006 - Notre Dame vs. Marquette

Notre Dame 65 Marquette 67

Just The Bomb

novaknd.jpgIn a finish that evoked memories of Doc Rivers' winning, half-court heave in 1981 at the Milwaukee Arena, Steve Novak's two-pointer from deep in the right corner with 1.1 seconds left propelled the Marquette Golden Eagles to a nail-biting, 67-65 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Friday night at the Bradley Center.

With a crowd of 18,874 on hand for the 106th meeting between the two Catholic schools -and first in the Big East Conference - MU (14-5, 4-2) fell behind by 11 late in the first half but kept riding the hot hand of Novak, pulled even for the final time with 45.9 seconds left and finally walked off Al McGuire Court victorious after the senior forward's heroics.

“Without a doubt this will go down as one of the great, historical battles in what's been such a long tradition between Marquette and Notre Dame,” coach Tom Crean said. “We showed our players today a tape going all the way back to the '70s, the '80s, some of the great, great matchups and the great shots.

“Well, that shot tonight will certainly be showed sometime, somewhere. It was two teams that really went to battle.”

Novak was the most obvious standout with a game-high 28 points highlighted by 6-for-10 shooting from three-point range, but a handful of others stepped to the forefront in key situations.

Freshman guard Jerel McNeal scored all 12 of his points in the second half, managing to remain aggressive on defense despite being saddled with three fouls in the first half.

Junior Mike Kinsella came from nowhere to provide a lift on defense against 6-foot-10 bruiser Torin Francis, blocking three of his shots. Then sophomore Ousmane Barro took the baton from Kinsella in the second half, grabbing five boards and blocking a shot himself.

MU went on a 9-0 run midway through the second half to grab its first lead, with a reverse layup from Barro making it 46-43 with 12 minutes 39 seconds to go.

Notre Dame (10-6, 1-4) fought back and shortly thereafter went on an 11-2 run, led by five of Chris Quinn's 18 points, to regain the lead at 59-56 with 7:06 left.

The lead seesawed back and forth four times over the next 5½ minutes before freshman guard Dominic James knotted the score at 65-65 on a nice hesitation move from the left wing with 45.9 seconds to go.

Out of a timeout, Notre Dame got the ball to its hot hand, gunner Colin Falls (21 points), but the junior guard's three-pointer from the top of the key was long and MU was able to corral the rebound and call time out itself with 19.6 seconds left.

When play resumed, James passed inbounds and immediately looked to Novak at the top of the key, but went instead to Joe Chapman when Novak was covered. With time winding down, Chapman found Novak heading deep into the right corner near the baseline.

With 6-1 freshman guard Kyle McAlarney hot on his tail, the 6-10 Novak took the pass, gathered himself and launched a fall-away jumper that wound up hitting nothing but net.

According to a Bradley Center employee, a decibel meter registered the crowd's outburst at 114.7 decibels, louder than every MU game at the Bradley Center aside from the Golden Eagles' last-second victory over Louisville two seasons ago.

After the officials huddled and determined the shot was a two-point basket, they put 1.1 seconds back on the clock. It didn't matter, though, as Rob Kurz's desperation heave from the opposite baseline was picked off by McNeal, sealing the deal for MU.

“I just recognized that he was shorter than I was so I knew I had to fade away a little bit but I could shoot it over him,” Novak said, referring to McAlarney. “I didn't really have time to do anything else, so I was able to go right into it. We felt like we were in the best situation we could be. We had 20 seconds and the last shot, and we really planned on hitting it one way or another.”

A cold spell from the field and three turnovers by MU in the opening 4 minutes allowed Notre Dame to jump out to a 9-2 lead.

The Fighting Irish looked to establish Francis from the get-go, with Quinn and Falls getting their share of looks from the perimeter. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, got four quick points from James but other than that it was almost all Novak.

After a 16-5 run got Notre Dame out to a 30-19 lead with 5:02 left in the first half, Novak canned 3 three-pointers - including one from a couple of steps beyond the NBA arc - to get MU within 32-30 by the 2:03 mark. The Golden Eagles suffered a blow just seconds before that shot, as McNeal was whistled for his third foul while trying to cut off Quinn on a baseline drive.

He went to the bench for the remainder of the half, but the Fighting Irish got only a free throw from Quinn the rest of the way to head into the locker room with a 33-30 lead.

MU only had to look at its turnover total - 10 - for the reason for its deficit. Notre Dame cashed those miscues in for 13 points.


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