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Irish look for fourth win against Michigan

Pat Leonard | Friday, December 3, 2004

Notre Dame’s Mike Brey and Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker are good friends, but they won’t be on Saturday.Both men coached as assistants under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. During the national signing day press conference Nov. 10, Brey mentioned Amaker more than once as a colleague he confers with often.But Michigan (3-3) is caught in the middle of a three-game losing streak. The Wolverines welcome Notre Dame (3-0) into Crisler Arena at 12 p.m. Saturday, and Michigan’s hunger for a win will be one of many factors that force Brey and Amaker to focus on only the game.”Michigan-Notre Dame is a lot bigger than Brey-Amaker,” Brey said. “So you’ve got to play the game.”Notre Dame’s first road game will appear on ESPN, the first of 13 nationally televised Notre Dame basketball games this season.The Irish are 3-0 despite averaging just 64.3 points per game. Notre Dame struggled at points in its first three games but managed wins through its easiest stretch on the 2004-05 schedule, beating Harvard, Quincy and Charleston Southern.But the strip of ‘gimme’ games is over.”I don’t know if you ever know [your team] until you play a Big Ten team on the road,” Brey said. “We know they will be very cornered. It will be an unbelievable atmosphere. They’ll come after us.”Michigan tests Notre Dame Saturday in the first of three critical games over seven days for the Irish. Notre Dame will travel to Bloomington, Ind. Wednesday night to play Indiana. Then the Irish will return to host historical rival DePaul the following Saturday, Dec. 11.”It’s a key week for us,” Brey said. “This challenge will be good for this group.”Saturday’s game is just as crucial to Michigan as the next week is to Notre Dame.The Wolverines fell to 3-3 after beginning the season with three straight wins over Binghamton (59-46), Colorado (69-60) and Sacramento State (70-49).Michigan placed fourth in the Preseason NIT, losing to No. 18 Arizona in overtime (61-60), Providence (72-63) and No. 4 Georgia Tech (99-68), losing to the Yellow Jackets in blowout fashion.Michigan is 3-0 at home so far and has a perfect chance to rebound with a win at home in front of what should be a sold-out, 13,751-seat capacity crowd.”They play pretty darn confidently in Crisler,” Brey said.Experienced guards Chris Quinn and Chris Thomas will be Notre Dame’s main weapons to fight the crowd noise and the Wolverines.Quinn leads all Notre Dame scorers, averaging 17.3 points per game. Thomas leads the team with 22 assists in three games as the primary point guard. Combined, the two guards score 31.3 points per game, with 26 assists and only four turnovers overall.”Chris and Chris really have to set the tempo,” Brey said.Michigan’s players have had up-and-down years so far.Dion Harris leads the Wolverines in scoring with an average of 15.8 points per game. Four players average double-figure points, including Harris, Courtney Sims (11.3), Daniel Horton (11.2) and Lester Abram (10.0).Brey said Michigan also is formidable on the other side of the court.”They really smother you defensively,” he said. “They have the athletic ability and length to do that.”For all of the respect Michigan’s defense commands, the Wolverines have turned the ball over 95 times to only 74 assists made. Horton, a 6-foot-3 guard, has made 29 assists and committed 29 turnovers. And Michigan has had more assists than turnovers in every game so far this season except its loss to Providence (19:9).Michigan leads the all-time series with Notre Dame, 12-7. The Irish won the last game of the series, though, with a 75-65 victory in the first round of the 2000 NIT tournament.