The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Men’s Basketball: ND to face Marquette, Pittsburgh

Mike Gotimer | Thursday, January 20, 2011

After a rough week on the road, No. 16 Notre Dame returned home and to victory with a 66-58 win over No. 25 Cincinnati Wednesday. With the Bearcats behind them, the Irish have a shot at redemption against Marquette Saturday before hitting the road again to take on No. 4 Pittsburgh Monday.

In their first matchup, the Irish (15-4, 3-3 Big East) were shut down 79-57 by the Golden Eagles (13-6, 4-2), whose hot hands from behind the arc put Notre Dame in an early hole that they struggled to recover from. Marquette shot 70.6 percent from 3-point range in that contest, led by senior guard Dwight Buycks, who hit all five of his 3-point attempts, and juniors Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. On the other end of the court, Marquette shut down Notre Dame’s scorers, as the Irish shot just 18.8 percent from 3-point range and 39.6 percent overall.

The offensive woes continued Sunday as St John’s used a similar man-to-man approach against the Irish in a 72-54 win at Madison Square Garden that sent Notre Dame home on its first losing streak of the season. The Irish hit just four field goals in the first half and committed 20 turnovers in the game. Furthermore, Notre Dame continued to struggle from downtown, as the Irish made just three of their 15 3-point attempts.

Irish coach Mike Brey said he thinks his team may have lacked a confidence boost in the early going of the two road losses.

“You need some confidence on the road, and you know we haven’t had any of that,” Brey said. “Just look at us last week — we just haven’t been able to see a 3-point shot go in, you know get an and-one, we get to the line, we miss a free throw, you know, it’s just kind of deflating where you’ve [got to] come back and guard all the time and you haven’t gotten anything on that other end.”

The absence of senior forward Carleton Scott has hampered the Irish somewhat, as Notre Dame has gone just 2-2 without him. However, Brey said he believes the Irish will still face stiff challenges with Scott in the lineup.

“He’s a key guy for us, but I also think you get into league play, it was [going to] be tough with him, you know winning at St. John’s or winning at Marquette,” Brey said. “Let’s be very honest about that. Those would have been tough places to get a win.”

Despite the setbacks, Brey said he believes his veteran team will not fade as Notre Dame enters the next phase of its conference season.

“I don’t think you have to even use the phrase ‘sense of urgency’ with them, they know [what’s at stake],” Brey said.

No. 4 Pittsburgh has set the pace in the Big East through the first third of the season. The Panthers (18-1, 6-0) entered the season as the coaches’ pick to win the conference title and handed No. 3 Syracuse its first loss of the season Monday night with a 74-66 win Monday night at home. In total, the Panthers have notched wins against five ranked opponents, defeating No. 22 Texas, No. 13 Tennessee, No. 4 Connecticut and No. 19 Georgetown in addition to their victory over Syracuse.

Junior guard Ashton Gibbs leads the Panthers in scoring with 16 points per game. Senior center Gary McGhee leads Pittsburgh in rebounding with 7.7 rebounds per game, and the 6’10, 250-pounder should pose a formidable threat in the middle.

After St. John’s successfully duplicated Marquette’s tight defensive performance, Brey knows his team will face tough defensive pressure the rest of the way when Big East foes play the Irish, and the Golden Eagles and Panthers should be no exceptions.

“We’re [going to] see a lot of guys coming at us,” Brey said. “Nobody’s coming to play zone, nobody’s playing zone. The guys in orange [Syracuse] we already played, so everybody’s coming at us.

“It’s funny how when you get into the league then ‘the book’ on how to defend, ‘the book’ on that, ‘the book’ — that’s ‘the book’ on us — come after us, make us uncomfortable, frazzle us, how [are] we going to handle it?”

The Irish tip off against Marquette at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Purcell Pavilion before traveling to face Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Monday on ESPN.