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Men’s Basketball: Rutgers provides another test

Michael Bryan | Friday, January 29, 2010

The Irish will try to stop their recent Big East slide Saturday on the road against Rutgers.
Notre Dame, which has dropped three of its past four, will travel to Piscataway, N.J., in search of a crucial conference win after a loss to No. 3 Villanova Wednesday dropped the team back to 4-4 in Big East play.

The Scarlet Knights (9-11, 0-8) are floundering at the bottom of the Big East standings, but Irish coach Mike Brey said it will be a tough test for his squad to bounce back from another loss in a hostile environment.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, our margin for error is very, very thin,” Brey said. “If we don’t fight, we’re going to get beat by anybody in this league, whether it’s Villanova, Syracuse or someone below us in the standings. We’ve got a heck of challenge Saturday to see if we can bounce back on the road.”

Notre Dame will look to rebound after falling 90-72 to the Wildcats this week. Despite trailing by just one point at halftime, the Irish were blown out in the second half by senior Scottie Reynolds and Villanova.

Senior forward Luke Harangody scored 21 points and gathered 10 rebounds in the defeat.

“Their depth got to us, and I know we’re frustrated with how we shot free throws again tonight on the road,” Brey said. “You’ve gotta turn it around really quick or you’ll get beat on Saturday.”

Notre Dame missed 11 free throws and committed an uncharacteristic 14 turnovers in the game.

Rutgers may be just the opponent for Notre Dame to solve its recent problems against, having lost all eight Big East games this season by at least nine points. Guard Mike Rosario leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring, averaging 15.3 points per game.

While the Irish defense was exposed by Villanova, Rutgers should pose a much easier challenge. The Scarlet Knights are averaging less than 56 points per game and almost 16 turnovers.

Brey said that he may continue to expand his rotation on Satuday after freshmen Joey Brooks and Jack Cooley saw time in the loss to the Wildcats. Notre Dame had gone just seven or eight players deep in most of its Big East games this season.

“We’re certainly confident in Joey, he’s played some good minutes,” Brey said. “He’s emerged as someone we can use and we want to keep getting him reps.”

The Irish bench also received more minutes because of foul issues against the Wildcats, with junior guard Ben Hansbrough fouling out and Harangody getting called for four.

Tip-off Saturday at the Bradley Center is scheduled for 6 p.m.