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Men’s Basketball: Irish look for redemption

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, February 9, 2011


No word better describes the theme of the week for Irish coach Mike Brey and the No. 8 Irish as Big East rival No. 16 Louisville comes to town and will battle for second place in what is arguably America’s toughest conference.

After avenging last year’s loss to a previously winless Rutgers squad with a 76-69 win over the Scarlet Knights on Sunday, Notre Dame (19-4, 8-3) looks to add to the injury-plagued Cardinals’ (18-5, 7-3) woes by getting even with the team that tore the hearts out of the Irish faithful in a thrilling 91-89 double-overtime win at Freedom Hall last year, something that Irish coach Mike Brey vowed to remind his team of prior to the game.

“It’s interesting since the [previous] Louisville game what this nucleus has done and I’ll make sure they know that before the game,” Brey said in a press conference Monday.

All this veteran Irish team has done since then is win, going 25-6 overall and 16-0 at the Purcell Pavilion, where they host the Cardinals tonight.

“Mentally we put ourselves in the right position to win and we just go out and put up a fight each and every time,” senior forward Carleton Scott said of the change in pace since the loss to the Cardinals a season ago.

Scott was a key contributor in the victory over the Scarlet Knights (12-11, 3-8), recording his fifth double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, senior guard Ben Hansbrough has stayed hot after adding 25 points against Rutgers. In his last four games, the Irish’s leading scorer has averaged 24.0 points and 5.3 assists per game, leading Notre Dame to sole possession of second place in the Big East behind No. 4 Pittsburgh.

“With this veteran group, we are able to ride different guys for a while,” Brey said. “We are not the quickest group out there but we are pretty smart as to getting a feel as to what [other teams] are trying to do to us.”

The Cardinals are coming off of a 61-57 win over DePaul on Saturday, where they squeaked by despite the absence of their top scorer, senior guard Preston Knowles, and top rebounder, sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles.

Cardinals’ coach Rick Pitino’s squad, however, found solace in sharpshooting junior guard Kyle Kuric, who went for 19 points and was 3-5 from 3-point range. The junior has averaged 14.3 points per game in his last three contests while shooting 44-percent from beyond the arc on the year.

Knowles, averaging nearly 15 points per game, is expected to be healthy after sitting out Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury along with sophomore speedster Peyton Silva, who struggled through back spasms in his last two games. The Cardinals are shooting just under 37 percent from 3-point range this season.

“[The Cardinals] are really using the 3-point line as their mode of getting going,” Brey said. “For us, we need to control the tempo and watch out for guys on the arc.”

Louisville hopes to end Notre Dame’s five-game win streak while the Irish will try to continue their dominance at home tonight at 7 p.m. in the Purcell Pavilion.