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Men’s Basketball: Road worries

Fran Tolan | Friday, January 25, 2008

Following blowout losses to Marquette and Georgetown in its only two Big East road games, Notre Dame is confident the third time will be the charm in the quest for a conference road win.

The Irish feel good about their chances as they head to Philadelphia to take on No. 18 Villanova (13-4, 3-3) at the Wachovia Center Saturday.

“We’re finally going to get over this road hump,” sophomore forward Luke Harangody said. “We’ll be fine. … We just gotta go out there and show what we can do.”

The Irish (13-4, 3-2) have won all three of their league home games but are coming off a 19-point loss to a physical Georgetown team last weekend. Villanova does not have any players taller than 6-foot-10, but the Wildcats feature a quick, guard-oriented system.

“It’s a different team than Georgetown,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “They’re nowhere near as big but they’re fast and they’ll shoot it. And they’ll drive it and they’ll spread us out with a lot of speed.”

One of the biggest challenges for the Irish defense will be Wildcats sophomore guard Scottie Reynolds, who is the reigning Big East player of the week after scoring a combined 46 points against DePaul and Syracuse last week.

“He’s a heck of a player,” Brey said. “We’ve gotta really be aware of him because he’s the guy that kind of makes them go.”

But in an 80-68 win over Villanova Wednesday, Rutgers proved that Reynolds can be contained. Rutgers held the Wildcats’ star to 16 points on 5-of-19 shooting.

“I think [defending him has] gotta be by committee,” Brey said. “We’ll change it up. You gotta throw a lot of different looks at him.”

Brey said he thinks the Irish can exploit Villanova’s lack of size by giving touches to their big men, senior forward Rob Kurz and Harangody.

“I do think we can get the ball inside and establish our inside game more successfully than we could against Georgetown,” Brey said. “So we definitely want to try and do that.”

Kurz and junior forward Ryan Ayers, who both grew up in the Philadelphia area, are looking forward to playing in the Wachovia Center.

Ayers said he is also excited to see Villanova red-shirt freshman Andrew Ott, who was Ayers’ high school teammate at Germantown Academy.

“It’s gonna be a great environment,” Ayers said. “I’m just excited to play in front of my family and friends.”

Despite the many extra ticket requests he has received from family and friends, Ayers said he is not distracted from his goal of helping the Irish to their first conference road win.

“As long as we play like we’ve been playing at home [we’ll win],” he said. “We have to translate our home identity onto the road.”

Brey agreed with Ayers, saying he doesn’t want his team to change its style because it is the visiting team.

“We have not been very good on the road but I don’t know if we want to overanalyze things,” Brey said. “We want to, you know, come out and compete again. I don’t think you make all kinds of changes to your system.”