Notre Dame is in big, big trouble. No. 8 Marquette improved to 7-0 in the Big East with a 71-64 win in South Bend, giving the Irish a fourth straight loss in conference play.
Luke Harangody didn’t score in the final three minutes and Kyle McAlarney struggled to get good looks throughout the entire game and finished with only nine points.
Monday’s game was yet another illustration of the Irish’s lack of balance, as Harangody and McAlarney did most of the shooting.
Head coach Mike Brey inserted Luke Zellar and Jonathan Peoples into the starting lineup hoping to spark his struggling offense. Both players had good games but were reluctant to shoot late in the contest.
Notre Dame clearly needs to find a third option offensively. Guard Ryan Ayers, once considered to be a great shooter, lost his starting job and was awful again. Ayers missed all seven of his shots, including six 3-pointers.
Zellar and Tory Jackson seem to be the most likely candidates to emerge as scoring threats.
Jackson is averaging 11 ppg this season but is sometimes reluctant to shoot as the team’s point guard. Zellar started his third game of the season Monday and showed a nice outside shot.
Another problem with the Irish is the lack of athleticism on the perimeter.
Marquette’s guards drove at will and harassed McAlarney and Jackson. Jerel McNeal led the Eagles with 27 points, many of which came on drives to the basket.
Notre Dame is now 12-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big East. The Irish have a daunting upcoming schedule, with road games against Pitt, Cincinnati and UCLA prior to hosting Louisville on Feb. 12th.
It seems amazing, but the Irish will have to play very well for the rest of the season to earn an NCAA tournament berth.