Not Getting Easier

South Bend,In - For a Notre Dame team seeking to end its longest losing slide in almost three years, a matchup with surging Marquette might not be the best solution.

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Looking to bounce back from their first home defeat since 2006, the 19th-ranked Irish have the tough task of ending the 11th-ranked Golden Eagles' season-high nine-game winning streak.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook have made the Notre Dame -3 point spread favorites for Thursday’s game against the Marquette. Current College Basketball Public Betting Information shows that 61% of more than 184 bets for this game have been placed on the Notre Dame -3.

Notre Dame has lost eight of the last 11 games between the teams and struggled last season against the guard-oriented Golden Eagles, who averaged 88.0 points while shooting 44.6 percent (33-for-74) from 3-point range in three games. The teams each won on their home court before then-No. 25 Marquette upset 14th-ranked Notre Dame 89-79 in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.

Heading into 2008-09, the Irish (12-6, 3-4) were selected by Big East coaches to finish fourth, and the Golden Eagles (16-2, 6-0) were tabbed for sixth.

Notre Dame, though, enters this game in 10th place in the 16-team conference, while Marquette currently shares the top spot with No. 9 Louisville. The Golden Eagles are off to their best conference start since ending their independent status in 1989, surpassing their 5-0 mark in the Great Midwest in 1992-93.

The Irish, meanwhile, have dropped in the standings due to three straight defeats - all to ranked conference opponents. The most recent one came Saturday night, a 69-61 defeat to No. 3 Connecticut that ended the nation's longest active home winning streak at 45 games.

It was their first loss at the Joyce Center since falling to Marquette on Feb. 25, 2006, which was also the last time Notre Dame fell to a Big East foe there.

Against the Huskies, Luke Harangody - the Big East's reigning Player of the Year - recorded his eighth straight double-double with 24 points and 15 rebounds, but the remaining four starters combined for 22 points on 8-for-39 shooting as Notre Dame shot a season-low 32.9 percent.

"(Three) losses in a row in the Big East, that's what everyone's focusing on right now in this locker room," said senior guard Kyle McAlarney, who was 3-for-15 from the field on Saturday. "We need to win."

Notre Dame has not dropped four straight since a five-game slide - also against Big East teams - from Jan. 20-Feb. 4, 2006.

Regrouping certainly won't be easy for Notre Dame against a Marquette team coming off a 79-70 win over DePaul Saturday. The nine-game winning streak is the Golden Eagles' longest run since reeling off 10 in a row during their 2003 Final Four season.

While Marquette is enjoying its success, first-year coach Buzz Williams expects his team to focus on this contest.

"We don't have to temper our excitement, we just have continue to work hard," Williams said. "It's a big game. It's Notre Dame. It's Marquette. We will be ready to play."

Jerel McNeal had 21 points and six steals, Wesley Matthews scored 20 points and Lazar Hayward added 16 points and 17 rebounds for the Golden Eagles, who lead the Big East in scoring at 81.5 points per game and are facing a Notre Dame team 14th in the conference in scoring defense at 70.1 per game allowed.

"There's no secret to success," said McNeal, second on the Golden Eagles with 18.9 points per game. "It's how you work, pushing yourself to the limit and having an unbelievable work ethic and trying to get better."

Hayward, an undersized power forward at 6-foot-6, averaged 17.7 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent in the three games against the Irish in 2007-08.

Marquette also has played well defensively, limiting opponents to 65.6 points per game during its winning streak, and had a season-high 14 steals Saturday. But the 6-8 Harangody has been able to exploit the lack of size on the Golden Eagles, averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in four games while recording three double-doubles.

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Posted: 1/26/09 12:10AM ET

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