Notre Dame-Pittsburgh Preview
Coach Mike Brey seemed exhausted following his team's most recent contest, which isn't surprising given the amount of basketball Notre Dame has played over the last two-plus weeks.
He's hoping his players haven't run out of gas yet, though.
The 25th-ranked Fighting Irish seek a fifth straight victory over host No. 20 Pittsburgh on Monday night as each Big East squad looks to bounce back from a poor performance.
Notre Dame (20-6, 8-5) has been one of busiest teams in the country recently, having gone to overtime in three of its last five games, beginning with a win at DePaul on Feb. 2.
Following a loss at then-No. 9 Syracuse two days later, the Irish defeated then-No. 11 Louisville 104-101 in a five-overtime thriller on Feb. 9 before again needing overtime to beat DePaul on Wednesday.
Brey had little to say after Notre Dame's 71-54 loss at Providence on Saturday knowing his team has another tough contest looming.
"We've invested a lot emotionally and physically over the last week," Brey said. "My demeanor is not to rant and rave, because I'm thinking we've got another one Monday night. We've got to get our energy back and get some juices back for Monday. It's been a long week."
The Irish earned a 56-51 victory Jan. 24, 2011, in the most recent meeting in Pittsburgh to end a five-game road series losing streak. The Panthers haven't beaten Notre Dame since January 2009 - they've averaged 52.0 points in the past four meetings - and will be looking to rebound from their own tough loss after falling 79-69 at No. 18 Marquette on Saturday.
"It's a bounce-back game for both teams," Irish assistant coach Rod Balanis said. "It's a quick turnaround and hopefully we'll be ready."
Pittsburgh (20-6, 8-5) had won seven of its previous eight before coach Jamie Dixon's team set season-worsts for points allowed and defensive field-goal percentage (56.5) in Milwaukee. It held its previous three opponents to less than 37.0 percent from the field.
"We got what we deserved," Dixon said.
Dixon, like Brey, didn't seem all that perturbed by the defeat given the schedule and rugged nature of the Big East, which has six ranked teams.
"Nobody is going through and winning their last 10 or 12 games in this league," Dixon said. "You're going to have setbacks, and hopefully this one makes us better.
"We've got a quick turnaround against Notre Dame and we're going to get back to what we do well."
Dixon hopes that means resembling the defense that leads the conference and ranks in the top 10 nationally by allowing only 55.4 points per game.
The Panthers, though, could have their hands full with Notre Dame big man Jack Cooley, who is scoring a team-best 14.6 points per game and averaging 11.2 rebounds to rank fifth in the nation. He had 12 points and 10 boards Saturday for his sixth straight double-double, giving him a total of 18 that is tied for second-most in the country.
Cooley had eight points and 14 rebounds as the Irish won the most recent matchup 72-59 on Dec. 27, 2011.
Pittsburgh averaged 73.0 points in its first 21 games, but is scoring just 62.6 per game over the last five.
Lamar Patterson scored 19 points Saturday for the Panthers, who have scored more than 70 points only once in their last 10 contests.