Men’s Basketball: Title thoughts
Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, February 2, 2011
In the midst of the biggest blizzard of the year, No. 8 Notre Dame has taken the nation by storm, especially after ending No. 2 Pittsburgh’s 20-game home winning streak with a 56-51 victory.
But it’s not yet time for celebration. The second-place Irish (17-4, 6-3 Big East) have their eyes set on winning the Big East title and that comes with winning more games on the road, starting tonight with DePaul after a nine-day break.
“This break came at a really nice time for a veteran team who have been logging a lot of minutes,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “It’s good to rest and then get back out there for a big stretch.”
Waiting for them is a struggling, DePaul (6-14, 0-8) squad that has not won a Big East game in over a year, a streak going back 21 games to a 51-50 win over Marquette last January. But looking back to last year’s defeat at the hands of winless Rutgers on the road, the Irish are looking to do nothing different from their big 56-51 road win in Pittsburgh Jan. 24.
“Especially going on the road, we want to leave it all on the floor, which was something that gave us the victory,” senior guard Ben Hansbrough said.
Hansbrough took control of that game, outscoring Pittsburgh (20-2, 8-1) 13-12 by himself in the final 10 minutes of the game, finishing with 19 points and 7 assists. Brey acknowledged Hansbrough’s outstanding play, and wants to continue giving him the ball to take control of the game against the Blue Demons.
“Ben does a great job when we get the ball in his hands and let him make his reads,” Brey said. “It’s a luxury to have a guard who can just make decisions at the end of the clock like that.”
Against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame took advantage of its slow-burn offense, rushing the Panthers into taking shots while holding them to a season-low 51 points.
“The one thing about burning it like that is that you have to be patient and we have a veteran group that believes in that,” Brey said. “It’s a very drastic style of play which means less shots and touches but it just shows the belief that this group has in the system.”
But DePaul looks to counter the Irish’s slow-burn style of play with the speed and versatility of their pair of freshmen leading scorers, power forward Cleveland Melvin and guard Brandon Young. In last Thursday’s 71-60 loss to South Florida, Melvin led the team with 17 points and four blocks while Young added 11 points and three assists. The size of the Blue Demons could pose trouble for the Irish as Melvin is paired up with six-foot-eleven junior center Krys Faber, who had 16 points and six rebounds in Tampa.
Meanwhile, the Irish have lost sophomore Mike Broghammer for the year after he struggled to stay healthy with tendinitis in both knees. The power forward played sparingly in ten games this season, averaging 1.8 points and 1 rebound a game.
The Irish look to continue their three-game win streak while the Blue Demons look to break theirs tonight at Allstate Arena. The game will be televised on ESPN at 9 p.m.