MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- If Marquette was angry at Chris Thomas, it gave a decisive response.
Steve Novak scored a career-high 21 points and Scott Merritt added 18 as No. 23 Marquette used a big first half for a 71-58 victory over No. 20 Notre Dame.
Thomas poured in 32 points and handed out 10 assists in last season's 92-71 home rout of Marquette. The junior point guard, who flirted with going to the NBA, angered some of the Golden Eagles with comments about how easy it was for him.
"They took it to us last year, we were very fired up," Golden Eagles guard Travis Diener said. "We just wanted to come out and get off to a good start."
Nothing was easy for Notre Dame (2-1) on this night, especially for Thomas. The Golden Eagles' harassing defense limited Thomas to 4-of-21 shooting and 11 points.
"I think maybe Chris tried to force some things to get us going," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "A lot of the shots he took tonight, he made last year. He could never get into a rhythm. A lot of that was Diener, but also was their help defense."
Merritt's fast-break layup opened an early 12-3 lead and Marquette (5-0) continued to expand it. Marcus Jackson's layup made it 22-5 with 10:51 left in the first half.
The Golden Eagles took their largest lead at 34-11 on another layup by Jackson with 4:14 to go in the half. They settled for a 41-26 halftime advantage, limiting Notre Dame to seven baskets.
"Our guys did a fantastic job of executing the game plan," Marquette coach Tom Crean said. "Their unselfishness was incredible. I could have never imagined having the start we had."
Diener, assigned to Thomas for large stretches, added 12 points and seven assists. Freshman Dameon Mason netted eight points for the Golden Eagles.
The Fighting Irish pulled within 57-47 on Torrian Jones' layup with just under eight minutes to play. But Novak answered with a 3-pointer for a 13-point bulge with 6:29 left.
Notre Dame drilled 12 3-pointers in last season's victory over Marquette. The rematch was a different story as it was a paltry 17 percent (5-of-29), including a 3-of-14 effort from Thomas.
"We knew how good we played against them last year. We forced some shots early," Jones said. "We got into a little bit of a hole and it was tough to get back from it."
The Irish's 3-point total equalled Novak's. The sophomore forward was 5-of-7 from the arc and 6-of-9 overall.
Torin Francis collected 23 points and nine rebounds to lead Notre Dame, which shot 31 percent (19-of-61). Jones chipped in 14 points. Chris Quinn, a sophomore replacing Matt Carroll at shooting guard, was 2-of-10 from the arc.
"Our defensive effort and mind-set was terrific," Crean said. "It starts with Travis. There was no way I was not going to let Travis guard Chris Thomas. Not everyone wants that matchup, but he did a great job."