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McNeal helps Marquette shoot itself past Notre Dame

Mar 14, 2008 - 4:30 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Jerel McNeal became the latest player to send Notre Dame packing from the Big East tournament.

McNeal scored 20 of his 28 points in the second half as No. 24 Marquette toppled 14th-ranked Notre Dame, 89-79, in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference tourney on Thursday.

Maurice Acker added all 11 of his points after intermission for the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles (24-8), who advanced to Friday's semifinals against seventh-seeded Pittsburgh. It will be Marquette's first appearance in the semis in three years since joining the Big East.

With Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody limited due to foul trouble, the Fighting Irish dropped to 4-13 all-time in the conference tournament since 1996.

Despite the lack of contributions from its big man, Notre Dame (24-7) held a 38-32 lead at the half. That advantage would not last long as Marquette ended up sizzling from the field after the intermission.

Behind 6-of-8 shooting - including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers - by McNeal, the Golden Eagles shot 63 percent (17-of-27) in the second half to become the third lower seed to win on Thursday.

Marquette went on a 13-2 run in the opening minutes after halftime to take a 47-46 lead - its first advantage since midway through the second half. McNeal scored seven straight points for his team during the spurt.

After Harangody's dunk knotted the score at 54-54 with 12:42 remaining, McNeal's 3-pointer ignited a 12-3 burst that gave the Golden Eagles a 66-57 cushion following a jumper by Acker with 7:52 left.

Although the Irish battled back within three points at 68-65 on a 3-pointer by Rob Kurz with 6:12 to play, Acker made three straight baskets, including two 3-pointers, for Marquette to all but seal the contest.

Acker, who averaged just 4.5 points during the regular season, gave the Golden Eagles a 76-66 advantage with 3:36 left with the second of those long-range baskets.

Lazar Hayward scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Dominic James added 10 points, six boards and six assists for Marquette.

Kyle McAlarney scored 20 points and Kurz added 15 and seven rebounds for Notre Dame, which lost for just the second time in eight games.

Harangody ended with 13 points and five boards in 25 minutes before fouling out.