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Notre Dame looks to contain Hoyas

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Fans in the Joyce Center may catch themselves rubbing their eyes tonight.

When Notre Dame (14-7, 6-5 Big East) meets Georgetown for the second time this season, the visiting third-place Hoyas (16-6, 8-3) will run the methodical Princeton offense, a series of backdoor cuts and perimeter passes.

The offense, new to the Big East, slows down games and creates a tempo uncommon to the often up-and-down style characteristic of the conference’s play.

“If a team wants to play in the 50s, they’re gonna play in the 50s,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We’ve got to get our guys mentally ready to understand that we can win the game 57-55, and it still counts.

“Georgetown is every bit as powerful a game for our resume as Connecticut, Villanova or Boston College.”

In the first meeting between the Irish and Hoyas on Jan. 23, Notre Dame lost 55-54 on a buzzer-beating dunk by Georgetown center Roy Hibbert. Colin Falls hit a 3-pointer seconds before to send the Irish up one, but Hoyas guard Ashanti Cook went the length of the court and dished to Hibbert for the bucket and the win.

Notre Dame has won its share of close games, beating Seton Hall (Jan. 5) with a Falls 3-pointer, St. John’s (Jan. 15) with late-game defense and Connecticut (Jan. 30) with steady play down the stretch. But the Irish are coming off one of a few tough close defeats after losing to Pittsburgh, 68-66, on Saturday.

“You look at all our Big East games and almost every one of our games has been down to game situations,” Irish guard Chris Quinn said. “It’s not necessarily one thing that’s hurting us this year. It’s little things that we’ve got to improve on.”

Quinn led Notre Dame with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting against Pittsburgh, combining with Chris Thomas to provide the majority of the team’s offense.

Brey is pleased the Irish offense has become more balanced after seeing the team emerge from its toughest four-game stretch with a 2-2 record.

“I think the one thing you can say right now is we improved our NCAA tournament resume, even though we didn’t go 4-0,” Brey said. “Two of those wins really jumped us.”

But against the Panthers, the Notre Dame frontcourt managed just four points. Though the Irish can rely on their guards, Brey prefers the balance begin down low.

“It needs to start inside,” he said. “You start with low post touches. You can always kick it back out for a shot, but at least put some pressure on the defense and throw it in there so they have to respect the big guys.”

The Irish offense must remain patient, however, because it cannot give the ball back immediately to a patient and poised Hoya offense, Brey said.

Georgetown is led by forward Brandon Bowman, who averages a team-high 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Cook, Jonathan Wallace and either Darrel Owens (seven starts) or Hibbert (15 starts) join Bowman in the starting lineup, along with 6-foot-8, 225-pound freshman Jeff Green.

Green (13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds) earned Big East Rookie of the week honors for the fifth time this season last week, with 21 points and nine rebounds in a 67-60 win over West Virginia Saturday.

Notre Dame had beaten Georgetown four straight times before losing at the MCI Center in January.

The Irish, who have played five of their last seven games on the road, will play four of their last six regular season games at home starting tonight with tipoff at 8 p.m.