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Men’s Basketball: Knight time

Chris Allen | Friday, January 18, 2013

After a disappointing road loss to St. John’s in New York on Jan. 15 brought the Notre Dame losing streak to two, the Irish will look to rebound Saturday night with a home contest against Rutgers.

Irish coach Mike Brey said his squad was discouraged to lose to the Red Storm.

“We had a disappointing night in New York. St. John’s really defended us,” Brey said in a teleconference Thursday. “You have to give them a lot of credit, the way they came out and defended the three-point line and made us more into drivers. I was disappointed with how we defended, certainly, at key times in the game. We had a chance to escape with a win.”

In the loss to St. John’s, Notre Dame (14-3, 2-2 Big East) played the deciding minutes of the second half with senior forward Tom Knight on the floor in favor of senior captain and forward Jack Cooley. Cooley played only 18 minutes and scored 10 points in the loss. Brey said Knight will be the first big man off the bench, ahead of fellow senior Garrick Sherman.

“I think there was a pretty strong message sent the other night when we finished the game with [senior forward] Tom Knight and not [Cooley], had a chance to win the game and Tom Knight gave us great minutes,” Brey said. “I think Jack as a senior, and a captain, looking at him this morning I think there was a different bounce about him.”

Notre Dame began Big East play with impressive victories over Seton Hall and Cincinnati before taking a step back against Connecticut at home and against the Red Storm. In a competitive and deep league, Brey said he took steps to re-energize his team in practice.

“One thing I talked about in front of our team with our seniors is, ‘Fellas, you only have 15 guaranteed college games left in your career. I think we need to value every one of them,'” Brey said. “It’s the ebb and flow of what happens in league play. You have to be careful not to overreact … But, you know, to get a Jack Cooley going again, to get [graduate student forward] Scott Martin going again, you need two good practices. They need to stick their nose in there, compete and hit the reset button – which happens in league play.”

Against the Scarlet Knights (11-4, 2-2), the Irish will need to contend with a talented duo of sophomore guards in Eli Carter and Myles Mack. Inside, Cooley will matchup with another senior noted for his physical play, Austin Johnson.

“Against [former Irish All-American forward Luke] Harangody, against Cooley, [Johnson] has been a guy that’s been hard for us,” Brey said. “Certainly we’re going to have to have a special focus of keeping him off the backboard and not letting him run wild in the paint.”

Rutgers coach Mike Rice returned from suspension Jan. 2 and has his team at 2-2 in Big East play, even with the Irish. Brey said his team will be up for the challenge from the Scarlet Knights off the disappointment of it’s recent play.

“We’re in that mode that so many teams in this league get into right now, where we’re in search of one of those valuable one-game win streaks in Big East play,” he said. “We’re thrilled to get back home and see if we can calibrate ourselves on Saturday night against Rutgers.

“I think we’ll be very prepared to play because we were disappointed, not only that we lost Tuesday, but that we lost at home to Connecticut.”

Notre Dame and Rutgers will tip-off Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Chris Allen at [email protected]