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Men’s Basketball: Road skid next big hurdle

Michael Bryan | Friday, February 26, 2010

The Irish ended their recent skid Wednesday with a big win over No. 16 Pittsburgh but will have to break another losing streak on the road Saturday at No. 13 Georgetown.

Notre Dame had lost three straight and seven of its last 10 games before the 68-53 win over the Panthers. Against the Hoyas, the Irish will be looking for their first road win since a one-point victory at South Florida on Jan. 5.

Notre Dame will travel to Georgetown with senior forward Luke Harangody’s injury status still in doubt. The captain has missed the past three games with a bone bruise in his knee.

The Hoyas have been inconsistent lately, dropping contests at Rutgers and at home to Syracuse, but rebounding Tuesday with a comeback win on the road against Louisville. Georgetown has been impressive but unpredictable this season, with huge wins at home against top teams like Duke and Villanova and bad losses to Rutgers and Old Dominion.

The Irish, who have struggled with depth and size under the basket without Harangody, will face a huge challenge in Hoyas sophomore center Greg Monroe. At 6-foot-11, Monroe is averaging 15.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game and has also displayed passing skills out of double-teams.

Junior guard Austin Freeman leads the Georgetown offense with 17.5 points per game and gives the Hoyas a strong inside-outside game. Junior guard Chris Wright is third on the team averaging 14 points per contest.

Junior forward Tyrone Nash said the team will need to continue to respond positively to pressure to win games down the stretch.

“We need that sense of urgency we played with [against Pittsburgh]. We just want to finish it,” Nash said. “We want to go in with that same mentality we had against Louisville and [Pittsburgh].”

The one bright side to the matchup against the Hoyas may be that the two teams share a common problem — lack of depth. Like the Irish, Georgetown is unlikely to play more than seven or eight players in the contest, which could result in fatigue for both teams down the stretch.

Notre Dame will face the Hoyas after one of its best performances of the season against Pittsburgh. Junior forward Tim Abromaitis had 17 points to the lead the team, but four Irish players scored at least 13 points.

While Notre Dame was clicking offensively, especially in its shooting from the perimeter, it was the defensive effort that may have been most impressive. The Irish held the Panthers to 53 points and were able to keep them in check without fouling, sending Pittsburgh to the free-throw line only seven times.

Senior point guard Tory Jackson said carrying the momentum from the win into a hostile environment will be key.

“It gets rowdy there, it gets loud and a team like that, they can make room,” Jackson said. “But we’ve just got to be poised, be smart on offense and be great on defense.”

After facing the Hoyas, the final games of the regular season do not get any easier for Notre Dame, who will then face resurgent Connecticut at home before closing with Marquette on the road.

Despite the daunting tasks ahead of them, Jackson said the team remains confident in its ability to compete.

“We believe in ourselves and we know we can play better than what we’ve been playing,” Jackson said. “We believe.”