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Notre Dame hopes to erase bad memories

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, March 17, 2011

CHICAGO — As second-seeded Notre Dame heads into its first game of this year’s NCAA tournament, its loss to Old Dominion almost exactly 12 months ago plays a big part in preparation.

“I think [that loss] scarred us for sure. I think it’s been the driving factor,” Irish senior guard Ben Hansbrough said in a Thursday press conference. “The way we ended the year, at the very beginning of our summer workouts, we were constantly talking about Old Dominion, constantly talking about getting upset.”

Irish coach Mike Brey said his team is well aware of its opening-weekend failings, which also includes a second-round loss to Washington State in 2008.

“As much as they’ve done at the end of last year and this year, they didn’t win a first round game,” Brey said. “So that’s our challenge against an Akron team who just won a championship.”

Brey said the Mid-American Conference tournament title the Zips won Saturday provides them with experience the Irish have not yet achieved.

“I can’t emphasize enough they just cut a net down on Saturday with a magical run through the MAC,” he said. “They can spread you out. They’ve got shooters out there on the perimeter. They use 3-point shot as much as the clip as Louisville does.”

“And they can throw it inside to big guys who can grind it inside, and if you over-bite the help, they kick it out to shooters. They’re old. They’ve played together for awhile. They have won together for awhile.”

Akron’s seven-foot sophomore center Zeke Marshall will pose a unique problem for the Irish, one that senior forward Carleton Scott said will alter Notre Dame’s attacks to the rim.

“He’s a long-body, athletic guy,” Scott said. “And he can block shots. … We’ve just got to be ready and focused and locked-in every defensive possession.”

Notre Dame’s loss to end its Big East tournament run Friday night against Louisville has provided the Irish even more incentive this weekend, fourth-year forward Tim Abromaitis said.

“Obviously we wanted to win that tournament,” Abromaitis said. “I think it kind of refocuses us and just shows us how quick a tournament can be over … So we have to be ready to play for 40 minutes every game, and I think that helped show us that again.”

Notre Dame will attempt to erase both the taste of last year’s first-round loss and the loss to Louisville when it faces Akron Friday at 12:40 Central.