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Owens: Brey, squad struggle in home loss (Jan. 22)

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This one was ugly. Plain and simple. You won’t find any sugar-coating here.

With five minutes left in Notre Dame’s third loss in four games – a 63-47 blowout home loss at the hands of Georgetown – the crowd filed out of Purcell Pavilion to clean off their windshields amidst a blizzard.

If only Irish coach Mike Brey had a solution as simple as an ice scraper.

Notre Dame earned only a smattering of applause until early in the second half when the Irish narrowed what was a 13-point halftime deficit to only three points. The Hoyas’ subsequent 18-0 run silenced the crowd and stifled the Irish, who are now forced to examine themselves in the mirror while they stand at a crossroads.

The Irish lack a consistent outside shooter, while most of the points are garnered inside, which is very uncharacteristic for a Mike Brey-coached squad.

Cam Biedscheid has turned cold during Notre Dame’s recent struggles. His 0-for-8 shooting performance (0-for-5 from behind the arc) against Georgetown was a microcosm of his recent play, as the freshman has scored just 20 points in six Big East games. When Brey can count on him to contribute, this team is dangerous. When he doesn’t, it gets ugly.

But no performance is as frustrating as that of sixth-year forward Scott Martin. Brey relegated him to the bench with just under five minutes to play and the Irish trailing by 21. In 19 minutes, Martin attempted just two shots, and he missed both for a total of zero points and two rebounds.

In the past four games, his point total (seven) has just barely managed to eclipse the number of years he has spent in college (six).

Right now, the Big East is a jumbled puzzle once you get past Syracuse, Louisville and Marquette, who each have one loss or fewer in conference play. Eight teams, including Notre Dame and Georgetown, have suffered three conference losses, which is where this gets interesting.

The difference between a No. 4 seed and a No. 11 seed in the Big East tournament is staggering. The fourth-seeded squad gets to watch the first two days of action, while the ninth, 10th and 11th have to play five straight days in order to win the tournament.

It still feels early, but the Irish are one-third of the way through conference play. Optimists will point out that the Irish were 3-3 in conference play before topping No. 1 Syracuse and finding their stride in what turned out to be a 13-5 Big East finish last season, but this group hasn’t gelled like the 2011-12 squad.

Will they? And, if so, when?

The Irish face a critical point in their schedule starting Saturday when they travel to South Florida. They face the Bulls, Villanova and DePaul in the next three contests before heading to Syracuse on Feb. 4.

Where will Notre Dame stand at that point?

Right now, it’s difficult to discern.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.