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Men’s Basketball: Irish busy over Thanksgiving

Bill Brink | Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Notre Dame’s season intensifies this week when the Irish face Kennesaw State today before heading to the Chicago Invitational Challenge this weekend.

The Irish (4-0) play their first game away from the Purcell Pavilion Friday when they play Northwestern in the Challenge. If they win, they advance to the finals Saturday.

“It’s a busy week for us,” Irish coach Mike Brey said after Notre Dame’s 91-72 win over Liberty at home Sunday. “It’s a week we can really get better. We have three practices and three games by Saturday night. It’s a chance for us to really step forward as a team.”

Irish senior forward Luke Harangody scored 32 points and had nine rebounds against Liberty, making all 10 of his free throws. Junior forwards Tim Abromaitis and Tyrone Nash both had 12 points.

Notre Dame has gotten great performances from Abromaitis off the bench this season. He has averaged 13.3 points per game and has made 11-of-16 3-point shots.

Senior point guard Tory Jackson is the final of the four Irish players who has averaged double-digit points so far this season — he scores 10 per game. He also averaged six assists per game in the first four games of the season.

The Owls are 2-1 and lost to Saint Louis 76-66 Sunday. Jon-Michael Nickerson and Markeith Cummings have both scored in double figures in all three of the Owls’ first three games. Cummings leads the team in scoring with 16.5 points, and Nickerson is right behind him with 16. Cummings also pulls down 8.5 rebounds a game.

Brey said he wanted the team to focus on being basketball players given the fact that they have the week off of classes for Thanksgiving.

“Some of the school responsibilities are going away this week, so we can just become basketball players, which is a good thing given the challenges of this week,” he said. “We can really step forward as a team.”

The quick turnaround of games in the coming two weeks, Brey said, will test the team’s abilities under pressure and fatigue.

“This is a good two weeks for us,” Brey said. “It gets really intense. I told the guys I want to see them concentrate better than we ever have before.”

Because of Notre Dame’s early-season schedule, the freshmen — Mike Bronghammer, Joey Brooks, Jack Cooley and Tom Knight — have gotten some playing time. Brooks has made 57.1 percent of his field goals and averages two points in 19 minutes.

“We want them to compete and play hard,” Nash said after Sunday’s game. “They need to take advantage of every minute and every second out there. It’s good to see them having fun. I’m glad to see them having fun.”

Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Purcell Pavilion.