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Irish to open highly-anticipated season

Matt Lozar | Thursday, November 4, 2004

No, it isn’t that St. Joseph’s.Due to a change passed by the NCAA Board of Directors, teams can’t play exhibition games against non-collegiate opponents. So tonight, the Irish open their preseason schedule and 100th season against Division II school St. Joseph’s from the Great Lakes Valley Conference.”I had two phone calls or e-mails. ‘Is that the same St. Joe’s from Philadelphia?’ [I said] no,” fifth-year Irish coach Mike Brey said. “[It’s] obviously a new rule. Again we haven’t done it yet, so ask me [tonight at] 10 o’clock but I think we are going to like this better because we are going to be playing against a system and a group of kids that have been practicing as long as us, and they are chasing team goals and they run plays. “So your preparations are more game-like than rolling it out and pickup game-like.”It’s difficult to project what the competition level between these two teams will be tonight since the Irish have played preseason games against “all-star” teams in previous years. But Brey feels Saint Joseph’s will come out on an emotional high as it gets to travel to South Bend and play a nationally recognized opponent. “I think they are going to come out and really battle us,” Brey said. “For them it’s their biggest game on the schedule. I look at this like the Harvard game. We better feel like this one counts. They are going to come out unlike the AAU teams of the past.”With only one new scholarship player on the roster for 2004-05, Brey has a veteran bunch on his bench this season. Combine that experience with the fact this team has been playing in the summer, working out or practicing together for months, and they’re finally ready to see new faces. “These guys have been beating up on each other ever since we stepped on campus,” Irish co-captain Jordan Cornette said. “It’s going to be great take some of it and kind of unleash it on another team and I think it’ll be a lot of fun for us.”As for tonight’s game, Brey has some things he’d like to work on, specifically starting to find the right combinations of players where different lineups will work in different situations. Having an extremely deep bench will allow Brey to try some different things in preparation for the non-conference and Big East schedules.”I would hope you want to see different groups play together, see when we substitute and use depth, keep our momentum up and not lose any intensity,” Brey said. “I’d like to see us be better defensively, but it may not be a realistic evaluation of us defensively because they are not real big, and our big guys may have to chase smaller guys for awhile.” The disappointing end to a disappointing 2003-04 season was a quarterfinal loss in the National Invitational Tourn-ament to Oregon on the Joyce Center floor. That memory has stuck in the minds of the veterans returning to this year’s team, and it’s something they want to correct starting tonight. I think the guys that experienced that last year left a taste in their mouth,” Cornette said. “We’re going to unleash that on St. Joe’s and carry it out through the season. “It starts [today] against St. Joe’s in the exhibition, and nobody is taking them lightly.”Noteu Brey said forward Rick Cornett will be held out of tonight’s game due to a lower back strain and it’s only a precautionary measure.u The Irish will dress nine scholarship players.