The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Men’s Basketball: Team gets chance for turnaround at WVU

Bobby Griffin | Wednesday, February 1, 2006

West Virginia knows firsthand what Notre Dame is going through.

The Mountaineers were struggling with one league victory last season when Notre Dame came to Morgantown. The Irish won by 13 – their fourth league win of the season. But it was West Virginia who found the momentum from that point forward to carry them to the Sweet 16, while Notre Dame watched from home.

The Irish are hoping to turn their season around in a similar way when they make another trip to West Virginia today.

“This is a team that really got going last year after we played them in Morgantown,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “They got really confident, really hot. They’ve got more 22- and 23-year old and married guys than us. They’re very experienced.”

Brey said Monday that West Virginia’s turnaround last season shows anything is possible when it comes to the Big East – something Notre Dame hopes is true considering its 1-6 league record this season.

“Its never too late in college basketball,” Brey said. “It isn’t football, that’s where basketball is great.

“And it’s always too early to say you’re in great position and a lock. I think for our guys we have to hang our hat on that and keep playing.”

But if Notre Dame is going to reverse its fortunes, it is going to have to do it against a tough opponent. The Mountaineers have not lost in conference play, and their 6-0 record is best in the league. Their wins have come against South Florida, Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence and St. John’s.

Five players on West Virginia have attempted more than 65 3-pointers this season. Three – Kevin Pittsnogle, Mike Gansey and Patrick Beilein – have attempted more than 100. The Mountaineers made 20 3-pointers in the victory over Marquette – something that concerns Brey.

“Like us, they are going to make tough 3s,” Brey said. “They can really shoot it. They have a bunch of different guys who can really get going.”

Brey said it is important for the Irish to contest West Virginia’s 3-point shooting whether the team is in a man-to-man or zone defense. The Irish coach also said he wants Notre Dame to keep focused on the offensive end.

“I want us to keep being aggressive,” Brey said. “Sometimes the flow of the game, the way we’ve played, it is a little bit of a shoot out. You’re getting stuff on us, as long as we’re getting stuff on you.

“I think we have to attack and go for it. We’ve done that in everyone of our league games, and that’s why even the ones weve lost we had a chance to win them.”

West Virginia is led by the tough guard-forward combination of Pittsnogle and Gansey. Pittsnogle is a talented big man who has shown an ability to step out and shoot 3s throughout his career with West Virginia. He is averaging 19.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting.

“He’s a big guy who can step out and shoot it,” Irish guard Chris Quinn said. “He’s extremely skilled and this year he’s even been posting up some and scoring that way.”

Brey said Pittsnogle is dangerous because he is a confident upperclassman. But it was Gansey – the 6-foot-4 guard who is shooting 61-percent from the field and 50-percent from 3-point range – for whom the Irish coach had even more praise.

Gansey’s field goal percentage is the best in the Big East among players with 200 or more field goal attempts. His 3-point percentage is best in the league by 26 percentage points.

“I think right now a kid like Gansey is a player of the year candidate,” Brey said.

The Irish and Mountaineers tip off at 7 p.m.


u Notre Dame travels to West Virginia with a good amount of confidence, even though the Irish have struggled so far this season in the Big East. Notre Dame has won the last 11 contests the two teams have played, dating back to Feb. 14, 1999.

“We’ve always been successful with West Virginia,” Irish forward Torin Francis said. “With our movement on defense we’re pretty good at defending shooters out on the perimeter.”