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ND MEN’S BASKETBALL: Teams take on Big Ten opponents in weekend matchups

Joe Meixell | Friday, December 2, 2005

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said his team needs to establish center Torin Francis in the post Saturday against Michigan in order to bounce back from its 13-point loss to North Carolina State last weekend.

The Irish looked to Francis early on against the Wolfpack on Nov. 26, but began to settle for perimeter shooting as the game progressed. Francis managed just eight field goals in the game despite starting off strong.

“[We] should use Torin [Francis] a little more,” Brey said. “[We are] happy with his demeanor and [he is] keeping it simple. He’s in that kind of mood, scoring around the basket. [We have to] remember to get him touches.”

Francis is 12-of-21 from the field this season, averaging 10.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

Michigan will give Notre Dame a challenge with its ability to spread their players out on the floor. Wolverines head coach Tommy Amaker has a strong perimeter led by Daniel Horton, Dion Harris and Lester Abram to go along with Courtney Sims in the post.

Horton leads the Wolverines with 16.3 points per game. Sims is averaging 14.5 points to go along with 6.8 rebounds per game.

Brey said Thursday that he is impressed with Horton’s offensive game, specifically his ability to create for himself and make an impact on the floor.

“[Horton] took over last year,” Brey said. “[It is] kind of what he’s done this year. He’s made very big shots when there’s been game pressure on that team. He’s strong enough where back smaller guard down and overpower him.”

Brey made it no secret that he and Amaker are friendly off the court. He even went as far as saying that getting ready for Saturday’s game was unusual because of his relationship with Michigan’s coach.

“I’m probably more uncomfortable with this preparation because Tommy is a good friend,” Brey said. “We’ve been in this business a long time.

Brey and Amaker were once assistant coaches together at Duke under Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“Certainly Notre Dame-Michigan is more important than Amaker-Brey. It’s a match up that fan bases get excited about both in Ann Arbor and South Bend.”

The Irish lost a 61-60 heartbreaker last year to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. In that game, No. 20 Notre Dame led 60-58 when Horton completed a 3-point play with 20.7 seconds left to give Michigan the win.

Former point guard Chris Thomas had two opportunities to win the game on the ensuing possession, but missed two consecutive field goals as time expired.

“Any time Michigan and Notre Dame have been matched up, there always seems to be a little more of a buzz,” Brey said. “If it’s soccer, if it’s volleyball, women’s basketball, hockey. I just feel a little more juice around that.

“There’s some excitement from both fans bases when both these great institutions play.”

Notre Dame and Michigan will tip off at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Joyce Center.