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Men’s Basketball: Physical play awaits Notre Dame

Bill Brink | Thursday, February 4, 2010

All Big East teams play tough and physical. But the Notre Dame players say Cincinnati may be the most physical in the conference.

“They might be one of the most physical teams in the Big East right now so it’s nothing out of the ordinary,” senior forward Luke Harangody said of the Bearcats, who face the Irish at the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center tonight.

The Bearcats (14-7, 5-4 Big East) are trending up right as the Irish are struggling. They have won three of their last four games, while Notre Dame (15-7, 4-5) has lost four of its last five. In the Big East, that’s hard to snap out of, but junior forward Tyrone Nash said coming home will help.

“I think we play a little better at home,” Nash said. “It will help us re-establish how we play and really help us get back on track.”

Cincinnati has not won a Big East road game since Jan. 2, when it beat Rutgers 65-58 in Piscataway, N.J.

Harangody said the team came in Sunday after its loss to Rutgers to work out, and has also worked out early in the morning.

“It’s kind of a wake-up call for some guys who might need that,” he said.

But it might take more than that, and it might not be pretty. Harangody said he and fellow senior captain Tory Jackson may need to light a fire under some of the players to impress upon them the need to work harder.

“I think you challenge them the next couple days,” he said. “I think you got to get into each other a little bit. Maybe me and Tory need to get together and get the guys together and have a heart-to-heart talk with the team.”

Whatever they say, the team knows firsthand how tough Cincinnati plays. The Bearcats out-rebounded the Irish 50-31 the last time they met.

“We need to concentrate on boxing out,” Nash said. “We [need to] make sure we have a body on everyone.”

Sophomore forward Yancy Gates, at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, leads the Bearcats in rebounding with 6.7 per game. He also averages 10.5 points per game. Freshman forward Lance Stephenson leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.2 points per game.

Notre Dame is 3-1 in Purcell Pavilion in conference play, the only loss coming against a Syracuse team now ranked No. 3 in the country. Harangody continues to lead the Big East in scoring with 24.2 points per game.

Considering the outcome of the last game against Cincinnati, the players say they’re looking forward to the game, physicality and all.

“We know we have to get tougher,” Harangody said. “Cincinnati banged us around a little bit down there. I’m really looking forward to this game Thursday.”

Nash said the physicality, while extreme due to the athleticism of the Bearcats, was nothing new, and he wanted revenge against them.

“We’re going to come in here Thursday and try to beat Cincinnati because we kind of owe them from losing down there at Cincinnati,” he said. “We let that one slip away kind of and it left a sour taste in our mouth.

“They’re tough,” Nash said. “It’s going to be gritty. It’s going to be a little war out there. That’s the Big East, that’s what we signed up for.”