ND Basketball: Road redemption?
Fran Tolan | Friday, February 15, 2008
After an 84-78 loss to Connecticut on Wednesday night, Notre Dame will again head east to play Rutgers on Sunday. And despite the tough loss to the Huskies, the Irish had an upbeat attitude before practice Thursday.
“I think our confidence is still sky high,” senior captain Rob Kurz said. “We’ve been playing great and one loss is not gonna derail our confidence in any way.”
The defeat at Connecticut dropped Notre Dame’s Big East road record to 2-3, but coach Mike Brey said his team is excited to play away from the Joyce Center.
“I love that we have another road game in an on-campus facility,” Brey said. “That fan base is on us always – it’s a tough place to play.”
While the Irish fell to 8-3 and a tie for third place in the Big East with the loss to Connecticut, Rutgers has languished in the cellar of the conference for most of the season. The Scarlet Knights are 2-11 against Big East foes last in the conference.
But despite the teams’ dissimilar fortunes, Brey said Rutgers will not be an easy test for the Irish.
“Really, records in the league don’t mean anything right now,” Brey said. “We have to be as ready to play Rutgers as we were Connecticut, or we’ll be in trouble.”
Irish junior forward Zach Hillesland said Notre Dame will not make any drastic adjustments for the contest with Rutgers.
“There’s something to build on [after Wednesday’s loss] but not a whole lot to change from our game plan,” he said.
Even though the loss to Connecticut knocked the Irish from the second-place slot in the Big East standings that they had occupied for several weeks, junior forward Ryan Ayers said the team is more concerned with simply playing well every game.
“That [drop in the standings] is not really a big issue,” Ayers said. “Connecticut’s a really good team. We lost to a really good team so we shouldn’t even worry about that.”
Irish sophomore Luke Harangody’s 32 points and 16 rebounds against Connecticut raised his overall averages in those categories to 20.8 and 10.4, respectively. In conference play, Harangody’s 24.3 points and 12.1 rebounds per contest lead the Big East.
Rutgers, meanwhile, lacks a superstar but has a very balanced offensive attack. The Scarlet Knights feature three players – J.R. Inman, Corey Chandler and Anthony Farmer – who have double-figure scoring averages for the season. In addition, Rutgers freshman guard Mike Coburn averages 10.9 points per game during Big East play.
Hillesland said the Irish are happy they do not have a long layoff and are hungry to get back on the right track.
“We really thought we could have won that [Connecticut] game and it kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” Hillesland said. “So we’re definitely eager to get back on the road and try it out against Rutgers.”