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Men’s Basketball: On the road again

Chris Khorey | Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nos. 19/21 Notre Dame hasn’t won a true road game this season. It hasn’t won at Syracuse since 2004, and hasn’t won two games in a row in two weeks.

Coach Mike Brey’s squad will try to break all those streaks tonight when it takes on the Orange in the Carrier Dome at 7 p.m.

Notre Dame (17-4, 5-3 Big East) moved into a tie for fourth in the conference with a 66-63 win over Villanova Saturday. Brey said the low-scoring, physical game with the Wildcats will help the young Irish against Syracuse and its aggressive 2-3 zone defense.

“It was important to us to muck one out like that,” Brey said. “It’s a step forward for this group.”

Also important for the Irish will be Notre Dame’s ability to shoot over the Syracuse zone. Without suspended point guard Kyle McAlarney, most of the long range duties will fall to senior guard Colin Falls.

Falls scored 23 points against Villanova and is averaging 13.3 points per game despite being limited at times this season by a stomach virus and foot injury.

“He’s due to get in a rhythm now,” Brey said of Falls. “Between his foot and the virus, he’s had some things that have set him back. But he’s due for a hot streak now.”

Additional outside shooting may come from sophomore Ryan Ayers, Brey said Saturday. Ayers is averaging just 2.5 points per game, but he hit a key 3-pointer Saturday late in the game.

“[Ayers] really has shot well in practice, but he hadn’t shot well in games,” Brey said. “But to hit that three … hopefully that was a coming out party.”

If the outside shots aren’t falling, the Irish will likely turn to freshman point guard Tory Jackson and senior guard Russell Carter to drive into the lane to disrupt the zone and allow the Irish offense to flow. Carter is averaging 18.4 points per game this season, second in the Big East.

Brey said Jackson, who has shot just 15.6 percent from behind the arc, will especially need to penetrate.

“Our team changed from a shooting point guard to a driving point guard when we went from McAlarney to Jackson,” Brey said. “It’s important that Tory gets in the lane and makes a play.”

The Orange (15-6, 4-3 Big East) are coming off a 76-71 loss to Louisville Saturday and have dropped two straight games in conference. A loss could drop them as low as sixth in the Big East after being alone in second on Jan. 20.

Syracuse is led by forward Demetris Nichols, who is averaging a Big East-leading 18.5 points per game, and guard Eric Devendorf, who adds 13.5 of his own.

Tonight’s game will be televised by ESPNU.