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MEN’S BASKETBALL: Irish looking to roll Tide

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Notre Dame let a close home game slip away on Saturday, and now the Irish turn around to play No. 22 Alabama on the road in their first-ever trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala.

When the teams face tonight at 7 p.m. EST (ESPN) in a renovated Coleman Coliseum, Notre Dame (2-2) will continue its quest to improve game-by-game with the goal of containing the Crimson Tide’s rebounding and inside scoring.

Irish coach Mike Brey said Tuesday it is crucial that his team controls rebounds against Alabama, whose starting frontcourt of power forward Chuck Davis and center Jermareo Davidson averages 32 points and 17.4 rebounds combined per game.

“We gave up two put-backs late in the game against Michigan,” Brey said, referring to a pair of Graham Brown field goals late in the Wolverines’ 71-67 victory. “And Alabama’s strength is on the backboard … we’ve got to pressure and not let them play volleyball on the backboard.”

The Irish are currently out-rebounding opponents 38.8 to 32.2, but the Crimson Tide (4-1) are cause for concern inside the lane. Only shooting guard Justin Jonus (11 points per game) averages double-figure scoring numbers in addition to Davis and Davidson.

“It’s definitely important for our guards to help our big men,” Irish point guard Chris Quinn said.

Notre Dame practiced Tuesday afternoon before flying south at night.

Thus far in the season, the young Irish have set goals heading into games in the hopes of improving steadily but surely for Big East play in January. Most recently, they accomplished their goal of involving center Torin Francis more in the offense against Michigan. Francis scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, albeit not receiving the ball down the stretch in the second half.

But Quinn saw the team grow Saturday despite the defeat.

“I think we definitely improved from the N.C. State game [a 61-48 loss] to the Michigan game,” the co-captain said. “We moved the ball a lot better. It’s just hard sometimes to see the improvements when you lose.”

Brey, Quinn and shooting guard Colin Falls all admitted to tinkering with the offense following the Michigan game to free Falls up for more open looks at the hoop.

Though the Irish improved their scoring output from the previous game dramatically, Falls took just three shots and could not get open to prevent Notre Dame from making just 6-of-20 from behind the arc.

“We put in some different screening looks,” Falls said. “I think our offense got so repetitive sometimes, teams knew what we were doing.”

Notre Dame could use the win for strength of schedule purposes, as well. The Irish will not play another team currently ranked in the AP top 25 until they host No. 4 Villanova on Jan. 28.

Alabama’s only loss came to Memphis, 87-76, in the second round of the Preseason NIT in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Crimson Tide only managed a 60-57 win over Winthrop Saturday, but they also put up 105 points on Alabama State Nov. 20.

Alabama will re-dedicate Coleman Coliseum at halftime. The arena, originally opened in January 1968, has undergone a recent $28 million renovation.