Brown-Notre Dame Preview

Back in the Top 25 after a decisive home victory over the

reigning national champions, Notre Dame returns to the court

looking to continue its current run of domination.

The No. 22 Fighting Irish try for a sixth consecutive victory

when they host Brown on Saturday night.

Notre Dame (7-1) began the season ranked 22nd and moved up to

20th but would drop out of the poll shortly after a 79-70 overtime

loss to Saint Joseph’s on Nov. 16. The Irish have since shot 51.8

percent while winning five in a row by an average of 17.0 points,

and they’ve led by double digits at halftime in each of the last

four.

This will be their first game since returning to the Top 25,

getting an extended break after a 64-50 home rout of then-No. 8

Kentucky on Nov. 29.

“This win gives us a lot of confidence and helps us realize that

we are one of the better teams in the country,” said guard Jerian

Grant, who had 13 points and six assists.

Notre Dame shot 8 of 15 from 3-point range, held the young but

talented Wildcats to their lowest-scoring game of the season on

40.4 percent shooting and outrebounded them 33-27.

“I thought we played like an experienced group, defended

excellently for 40 minutes and got into our offensive rhythm when

we really needed to,” coach Mike Brey said. “It’s something for us

to build on.”

While the victory further reinforced that the loss to Saint

Joe’s might have been merely a stumble for the Irish, at least one

Notre Dame player won’t read too much into the latest triumph.

“We believe in ourselves,” senior Scott Martin said. “This core

group really knows what it is capable of. I think the win helps us,

but I wouldn’t say it was a huge stride.”

The junior guard tandem of Grant and Eric Atkins continues to

make strides. Grant has totaled 35 points over the last two games

and 25 assists in the last three, pushing his season averages to

13.0 and 4.9, respectively. Atkins has scored in double figures in

three straight games and is averaging 12.7 points with 7.0 assists

over his past six.

They’ve provided a solid compliment to senior Jack Cooley, who

averages team highs of 14.1 points and 11.3 rebounds. He’s tied for

second nationally with six double-doubles, including one in each of

the last three games.

The Irish hope they won’t have to shake off too much rust

Saturday when they try for a 24th consecutive home victory over an

unranked, non-conference opponent. They’ve won 12 straight overall

in South Bend and 41 of 42.

This is Notre Dame’s first meeting with Brown (3-4) since an

87-54 home victory Dec. 29, 2007.

The Bears are led by guards Matt Sullivan (15.7 ppg) and Sean

McGonagill (14.9), both of whom hail from suburban Chicago, not far

from Notre Dame’s South Bend campus. Sullivan had 18 points and

McGonagill added 14 in a 63-50 loss at New Hampshire last

Saturday.

Brown is facing its first Top 25 opponent since losing 86-47 at

fifth-ranked Wake Forest on Jan. 6, 2004.