Jan. 26, 2009

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)--Jerel McNeal had a season-high 27 points and Wesley Matthews made some key baskets down the stretch Monday night to lead No. 8 Marquette to a 71-64 victory over Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish's fourth straight loss.

It was the second loss in a row at home for the Fighting Irish (12-7, 3-5 Big East), who had won 45 straight at the Joyce Center until losing Saturday to No. 2 Connecticut.

Matthews had 16 points and Dominic James added 15 for the Golden Eagles (18-2, 7-0), who have won 10 straight and remained unbeaten in the Big East along with No. 7 Louisville.

Lazar Hayward had 13 points and six rebounds and James, who left the game in the closing seconds with an injured left leg, had nine rebounds.

The Golden Eagles, who led most of the game, finished it on a 12-5 run. Matthews started the run by making two free throws and scoring on fastbreak layup after he stole the ball from Tory Jackson. Then McNeal hit a 3 to put the game out of reach.

Luke Harangody had 29 points and 17 rebounds for the Irish, his 12th straight game with at least 20 and ninth double-double.

Jackson had 10 points for Notre Dame, which was ranked as high as seventh this season and fell out of the Top 25 on Monday for the first time.

Neither team got any points from its bench, which was a problem for the Irish because coach Mike Brey didn't start Zach Hillesland or Ryan Ayers in an attempt to shake things up. Ayers was 0-of-7 from the field, while Hillesland was 0-of-3.

Marquette outscored the Irish 36-20 in the paint despite being outrebounded 47-34.

The Irish, who entered the game shooting 44.5 percent and were coming off their two worst shooting games of the seasons, struggled again and finished at 36 percent. Marquette shot 43 percent and had 13 points off turnovers compared to none for the Irish.

The first half was a shooting contest between Harangody and NcNeal. Harangody hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 12, then McNeal hit a 3 to give the Golden Eagles the lead. Harangody hit a 16-foot fadeaway jumper, then McNeal had two three-point plays before Harangody finally missed his first shot.

Harangody was 7-of-11 for 17 points in the half with eight rebounds, while McNeal was 6-of-12 for 18 points. The Golden Eagles led 33-30 at halftime.