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Men’s Basketball: Kurz expects to play against DePaul

Chris Hine | Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Irish forward Rob Kurz said before practice Monday that he would play in Notre Dame’s game Thursday at DePaul. Kurz missed last Tuesday’s game at Syracuse and saw limited action Saturday at South Florida because of a sprained right ankle he sustained in Notre Dame’s 66-63 win over Villanova Jan. 27.

Against the Orange, the Irish were able to win without their third leading scorer (13.4 points per game) thanks to an impressive offensive display. Notre Dame put up 61 points in the first half before besting the Orange 103-91, but the story was different against South Florida.

Kurz, who leads the Irish with 8.5 rebounds per game, saw only 19 minutes of action against the Bulls, scored no points and committed four fouls in Saturday’s 69-63 loss in Tampa.

“[The biggest difference without Kurz on the floor] is definitely rebounding,” Notre Dame forward Zach Hillesland said. “He’s been our best rebounder. His size and strength give us a definite advantage on the boards.”

In the first meeting between South Florida and Notre Dame Jan. 21, Kurz led the way for the Irish with 21 points and 10 rebounds. His limited playing time and hampered mobility in Saturday’s loss allowed South Florida to get 22 second-chance points and dominate the Irish on the glass 48-to-37.

“They were more physical on the boards,” Irish guard Russell Carter said. “They had five guys rushing in every time as opposed to Syracuse, who had bigger bodies but they weren’t as tough inside.”

Hillesland filled in well against Syracuse, piling up 14 points and 10 rebounds, but got into foul trouble early against the Bulls. Kurz and then had to come off the bench, and forward Luke Harangody was left with the lion’s share of the workload inside.

“We just couldn’t get into the flow of the game, and we needed to hit the boards harder,” Harangody said. “It’s hard to play with [Kurz] not out there.”

Without Kurz’s usual offensive production, Carter and guard Colin Falls – Notre Dame’s two leading scorers – are under more pressure to score, but opposing defenses have focused their gameplan more toward shutting them down without Kurz. This has forced traditional role players like Hillesland and guard Tory Jackson to look to shoot more often.

Falls scored 26 points to keep the Irish in the game against South Florida, but Carter and Jackson struggled from the floor, shooting a combined 7-of-24 from the field. Hillesland, who has started in Kurz’s place the last two games, had four points and three rebounds against the Bulls.

“I’ve been up and down. I was limited the other night because of foul trouble the other night,” Hillesland said. “I was trying to contain some of those guys, they were pretty athletic getting to the boards. I’ve been trying to pick up some of the productivity we lost with Rob.”

Without a healthy Kurz on the defensive end of the floor, the Irish will try to avoid more games like South Florida where they gave up two or three shots on each opposing possession.

“His size and strength on the boards really gave us an advantage [rebounding],” Hillesland said. “We have to have the whole team rebound, from the forwards to the guards. Hopefully he can come back and be that force on the boards.”