Men’s Basketball: Irish get set to battle Pirates
Chris Khorey | Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Life in the Big East doesn’t allow for much downtime.
After two wins in three days over Providence and DePaul last weekend, No. 21 Notre Dame travels to Newark, N.J., to take on Seton Hall tonight at 7.
The Irish (16-4, 6-2 Big East) sit in second place in the conference, 1 1/2 games behind first-place Georgetown. But with Louisville (7-3) and Connecticut (6-3) hot on Notre Dame’s tail, the team can’t afford to slip up.
The Pirates (15-7, 5-4) enter tonight’s contest in a three-way tie with Pittsburgh and West Virginia for seventh place in the conference after losing 73-61 to the Hoyas on Saturday.
The Irish, who lead the conference in rebounding margin, will have an advantage in the frontcourt against Seton Hall – mostly because of leading scorer Luke Harangody,
The sophomore forward is averaging 24.4 points in conference games, including 28 per contest during Notre Dame’s current three-game winning streak. Harangody has also pulled down double-digit rebounds in six of eight conference games.
Although the sophomore, who is the reigning Big East player of the week, has been Notre Dame’s offensive leader, he doesn’t feel an obligation to score all the time.
“I wouldn’t say I feel pressure at all,” Harangody said. “There are other guys on the team that will pick it up.”
What Seton Hall lacks in frontcourt play, the Pirates make up for with shooting from their guards. Guard Brian Laing leads the Pirates with 19.3 points per game; he scored 24 against the Hoyas to keep the game competitive.
Three other guards – Eugene Harvey, Jeremy Hazell and Jamar Nutter – average double-figure points per game. Against Louisville on Jan. 19, Hazell scored 29 points and hit eight 3-pointers.
Last time Notre Dame played a team that could shoot as well as Seton Hall from the outside – a 90-80 win over Villanova on Jan. 26 -the Irish used a 1-2-2 zone to try to keep the Wilcats from getting good looks.
Harangody said the team is practicing several defenses to use against the Pirates, but he wouldn’t go into specifics.
“We went over a couple things yesterday at practice,” he said. “We’ll probably start off in man and see what happens.”
Notre Dame is 1-2 in true road games this season, although the atmosphere in Newark’s Prudential Center probably won’t reach the animosity the Irish saw in games at Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova.
The Prudential Center is five miles from Seton Hall’s campus and is not known for being an intimidating venue. However, the game is sold out, something that rarely happened when the Pirates played at the larger Continental Airlines Arena, 14 miles from their campus.
High school junior Jack Cooley of Glenview, Ill., orally committed to play for Notre Dame beginning in the 2009-10 school year.
Cooley, a 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward, has been compared to Harangody. Cooley also had scholarship offers from Illinois and Wisconsin.