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Irish head to nightmarish Rutgers

Andrew Soukup | Friday, January 30, 2004

Mike Brey has a dream.Actually, it’s more like a nightmare.When Brey goes to bed at night, he has a flashback to Notre Dame’s journey to Rutgers last year. There, Brey watched Scarlet Knight guard Jerome Coleman hoist up 3-pointer after 3-pointer – and most of them went in.”They’re not good basketball shots,” Brey said. “But they go in.”In that game, Coleman drained 7-of-12 3-pointers en route to helping Rutgers to a 95-82 win against Notre Dame a year ago. The Irish, who haven’t won in Piscataway, N.J., since Brey’s first year at Notre Dame, hope to avenge that loss Saturday.To do so, Notre Dame (10-5, 4-2 in the Big East) will have to win in one of the most hostile atmospheres in the Big East. Rutgers (11-6, 3-4) is 8-1 in the Rutgers Athletic Center this year, with their only loss a one-point defeat against Connecticut.”They,” Brey said, “seem to shoot it ungodly in that building.”However, Notre Dame has enjoyed most of its success this season on the road. The team’s “road warrior” mentality carried them to solid wins against Villanova and Virginia Tech, and the Irish narrowly missed ending Pittsburgh’s home win streak in a close loss versus the Panthers in early January.And going on the road gives Notre Dame – which has often played well one game, then struggled dramatically in the next – a chance to maintain the level of play the Irish exhibited against Miami.”It’s getting late now, and what you have to start thinking about is consistency,” Jordan Cornette said. “You have to be consistent for 40 minutes in a game and consistent from game to game. We had a great game [Wednesday], but you can’t go into the RAC saying that, ‘Oh, we played good against Miami, maybe we should be able to steal one here.'”No, you have to go in there and say, ‘We played tough against Miami, let’s play tough here, and let’s get one on the road.'”The Irish have often criticized themselves for their inability to begin games well. Thus, they often find themselves trailing by a deficit that becomes insurmountable as the game wears on.And at Rutgers, where fans drape themselves over the barriers screaming at opposing teams, the Irish know how important it is to jump out to an early start.”A big part of winning that game is to come out early and get some enthusiasm going,” Torrian Jones said. “They can’t get any easy 3s early in the game, and we have to wear them down.”Brey walked away from Notre Dame’s 72-62 win against Miami last night pleased with the balanced offensive effort he saw. Although Chris Thomas tied his season low with seven points Wednesday, all four of Notre Dame’s other starters broke the 10-point barrier.”We,” Jones said, “needed a game like [that] to get our confidence up.”Saturday, Notre Dame will find out if their confidence stays up.