This one was ugly all the way around on what should've been a special night for Notre Dame

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Dec 11, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles guard Tyler Kolek (11) goes up for a shot as Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Marcus Hammond (10) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

SOUTH BEND — Every so often when seasons in the Atlantic Coast Conference go sour and wins don’t come as easily or as often as they could or should, you think back on when Notre Dame men’s basketball was a beast in the Big East. 

Remember those days? Man, they were fun. 

The rivalries. The road trips. The Big Mondays. The run of seasons with double-digit league wins. The times when Notre Dame and its cast of characters/veterans would stare down challenges from a physical, mentally tough, hard and aggressive opponent and win. Connecticut? Check. Pittsburgh? Check. Villanova? Check. 

Noie:It wasn't just about points or rebounds for John Shumate, who was driven to dominate

Sunday, in its building, against one of those old conference rivals, Notre Dame was reminded what the Big East was built on. Toughness. Physicality. Imposing one’s will on another team. 

Eleven days after a night to remember — the home win against then-No. 20 Michigan State — Notre Dame staggered through one to forget as Marquette made the three-hour drive around Lake Michigan and laid it on the home team and its fans from all directions. 

There was nothing good to glean from the final box score. Throw it out. Burn it. Don't look at it.

The Golden Eagles scored at the rim early and kept coming back. On dunks and on drives and on flip shots and follows and everything else that led to the visitors hanging half a hundred — 50 freaking points — in the paint. It helped turn what at times looked like a competitive game into a decidedly one-sided route. A thorough butt kicking. So much so that Purcell Pavilion, and an announced crowd of 7,098, became Fiserv Forum South with chants and cheers and everything else that made it seem like this one was being played up in Milwaukee. 

Marquette (8-3) got out of town and back on the road with a 79-64 victory that left Notre Dame (7-3) defeated in more ways than one. Where do the Irish go from here? This week, it’s back to the classroom and final exams before who-knows-where when the season resumes Dec. 18 with a neutral-site game against Georgia in Atlanta. 

“Just didn’t execute defensively,” said Irish super senior Nate Laszewski. “Just communication, some of our habits. Just have to have a strong chest and execute better defensively.” 

Dec 11, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Nate Laszewski (14) goes up for a shot as Marquette Golden Eagles forward Oso Ighodaro (13) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

And care. Just a little bit more. Please?

Irish coach Mike Brey talked in the days leading into this one how Marquette was a lot like St. Bonaventure, which handed Notre Dame its first loss of the season late last month, basically by being more physical and tougher and aggressive than the Irish. Brey expected Sunday for his team to get “Bonaventured.” 

Notre Dame didn’t get “Bonaventured.” It got “Big Easted,” the league it left behind in 2013. 

Big Easted is a good phrase,” Brey said. “Driving at your throat, coming at you, grabbing at you, holding you. We don’t get guarded like that in the ACC. We used to be a little more battle-tested playing against that. 

“That is a Big East kind of beating.” 

Notre Dame was a member of the Big East for 18 seasons. For a good chunk of time before Brey arrived and figured the league out, this is how Notre Dame often lost — by being out-toughed and out-physicaled and out-everythinged by Connecticut and Georgetown and Pittsburgh and Villanova and everyone else along the Interstate 95 corridor. 

Dec 11, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper (12) dribbles as Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Marcus Hammond (10) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Before Notre Dame could get good in the league, it had to get tougher. It had to get better. It got tougher. It got better. When it ran into buzzsaws like Marquette, it had answers to all the punches it absorbed Sunday. Answers for guys like Jimmy Butler. Answers for Jerel McNeal. Answers for Darius Johnson-Odom. Answers. 

It had big guys. It had tough guys – both mentally and physically. It had guard Tory Jackson. It had power forward Luke Harangody. It had the Ben Hansbroughs and the Kyle McAlarneys on the perimeter. It had the Jack Cooleys and Ty Nashes inside to keep teams from doing what Marquette did. It won at least 10 league games six of the last seven seasons before leaving the Big East. 

It could play big. It could push and shove. It could be a beast. 

“It just is demoralizing when they keep coming at your throat like that,” Brey said. “It kind of breaks your spirit. It’s spirit-breaking.” 

It broke. 

A sour night on a night when Notre Dame can't lose

Sunday was the first time Notre Dame played a team from its old conference home since a Nov. 24, 2018 game against DePaul, which it beat by 25 points. Four years later, everything about playing a Big East team has changed.

Not for the better for Notre Dame. It doesn’t have the look or feel of a Big East outfit anymore. Marquette made that loud and clear. The Irish don’t belong. That also was obvious. 

This team, built more for the finesse and flow of the ACC, has zero Big East toughness or edge or anything. Not in the so-called “Big Three” or “Big Four” or whatever the core leaders call themselves these days. Not in the freshman class. Not on the bench. There’s nobody on that roster to go and do what the other guys did. 

That’s on Brey. His recruiting — or lack thereof — lost this one. Lost it before the ball even went in the air. Lost it this past summer or summers past when he needed size, needed toughness, something and thought, nah, we’re good. 

The other team had dudes. The Irish had duds. 

“We,” Laszewski said, “have to be better.” 

“We,” Brey said, “really didn’t have many answers.” 

Dec 11, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard JJ Starling (1) goes up for a shot as Marquette Golden Eagles forward Oso Ighodaro (13) defends in the second half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

That can’t happen no matter what conference Notre Dame calls home. Sunday’s game was the most lopsided non-conference home loss during Brey's 23 seasons. The Irish haven't lost a non-league game in Purcell by at least 15 points since being beaten by 25 (83-58) by UCLA on Dec. 20, 1995 when the building was the Joyce Center. 

Brey was quick to put on his this-only-counts-as-one happy face afterward, but it felt more like two or three the way Notre Dame lost. The Irish had their collective spirit sapped/snapped. Once, twice, three times over the course of a second half. It happened right from the jump when Marquette delivered body blows with a layup, a 3-pointer and a drive in the opening two minutes to swell its lead to 12.

The Irish got as close as seven the rest of the way, but even that felt phony. 

“It,” Laszewski said, “kind of got a little away from us there.” 

"You got your butt handed to you," Brey said. "We take our medicine. We take responsibility. We all got smoked today."

Like a brisket on a 12-hour cook that stayed on a few hours too long.

Dec 11, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Former Notre Dame player John Shumate watches watches a video tribute before he was inducted into the Notre Dame Ring of Honor during halftime of the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It’s bad enough that it happened at home. It feels even worse that it happened on what was supposed to be the culmination of a magical weekend for former Irish power forward John Shumate. 

Two rules have long been staples/standards of the Irish program — take care of the ball and go to class. Do that, Brey has long counseled his players, and they’ll get along just fine. A sign saying just that hangs in the locker room. 

A third rule — unwritten — has long been that Notre Dame does not lose on Ring of Honor night. It didn’t happen when it all started in 2010 with Harangody. It didn’t happen with all those who followed, be it Austin Carr or Adrian Dantley or Troy Murphy or (rest their souls) Tom Hawkins and Bob Whitmore. 

Ring of Honor games? Irish win those. Always. Sunday was the first time in 12 Ring of Honor nights that Notre Dame lost. Even worse – it never really showed up. Sitting in the front row, Shumate, and everyone else in the building who don’t call Milwaukee home deserved better. Deserved more. 

“We are who we are right now,” Brey said. 

That would be not a good basketball team. In any area. Certainly, not against high-level opponents. That’s not good. But it might be the best it gets. For this group. For this season. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.


At Purcell Pavilion

MARQUETTE (8-3): Ighodaro 7-10 2-4 16, Prosper 4-10 6-6 14, K.Jones 10-20 1-1 25, Kolek 5-9 0-0 11, Mitchell 3-6 0-1 6, Joplin 2-6 0-0 5, Ross 0-1 0-0 0, S.Jones 1-3 0-0 2, Gold 0-1 0-1 0, Itejere 0-0 0-0 0, Kennedy 0-0 0-0 0, Kozinski 0-0 0-0 0, Lucas 0-0 0-0 0, Walson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-67 9-13 79.

NOTRE DAME (7-3): Laszewski 7-15 3-4 20, Goodwin 3-8 0-0 6, Ryan 2-5 2-2 7, Starling 4-12 2-4 12, Wertz 2-6 1-2 7, Hammond 3-5 0-0 8, Lubin 2-3 0-0 4, Zona 0-1 0-0 0, Campbell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-55 8-12 64.

Halftime: Marquette 34-29. 3-Point Goals: Marquette 6-23 (K.Jones 4-12, Joplin 1-2, Kolek 1-3, Gold 0-1, S.Jones 0-1, Ross 0-1, Prosper 0-3), Notre Dame 10-25 (Laszewski 3-7, Hammond 2-3, Starling 2-3, Wertz 2-5, Ryan 1-4, Zona 0-1, Goodwin 0-2). Rebounds: Marquette 36 (Ighodaro 18), Notre Dame 28 (Laszewski 7). Assists: Marquette 13 (Kolek 6), Notre Dame 13 (Goodwin 4). Total Fouls: Marquette 12, Notre Dame 16. A_7,098 (9,149).