Kennesaw St.-Notre Dame Preview
For the most part, Mike Brey has liked what he's seen from his Notre Dame team. He continues to get a good look during its stretch of four games in seven days.
The No. 22 Fighting Irish hope to further please their coach while winning nine in a row for the second straight season Wednesday night against visiting Kennesaw State.
Notre Dame (10-1) has shot 51.2 percent while winning eight straight by an average of 17.1 points since losing in overtime to Saint Joseph's on Nov. 16.
"I'm happy where we're at right now, I like how we've found out a lot about who we are," Brey said.
The Irish shot 51.8 percent in Monday's 74-62 win over IPFW, two days after hitting 49.1 percent from the field in an 81-68 victory over Purdue in Indianapolis. After this contest, Notre Dame hosts Niagara on Friday then does not play again until opening Big East action versus Seton Hall on Jan. 5.
With the Irish trying to win their 27th straight non-conference home contest, Brey is looking forward to the next few days to work with and further evaluate his squad before the extended layoff.
"These are an important four days, two days of practice (and) two games. We got to get something out of them because we don't play until January 5th," said Brey, whose team won nine in a row during conference play last season. "I'm pleased where we're at and we have a chance to get to 12-1 (by the end of the week)."
Though Pat Connaughton had a season-high 18 points with six rebounds and five assists and Scott Martin scored 13 points Monday, Brey hopes for a better overall effort from his four-guard lineup in this contest. The Mastodons shot 35.4 percent overall, but went 5 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half and totaled 15 points off turnovers.
Eric Atkins matched a season high with four turnovers and the Irish were 1 of 9 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes.
"(The guards) weren't as good as they've been, and when they aren't, we labor," Brey said. "They get a chance to bounce back in practice and another game Wednesday."
Connaughton (8.8 points per game) has made strides offensively while totaling 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting in the last two contests.
"It's something I've been waiting to do. Attacking the basketball," the sophomore swingman said. "It's something people have been harping on me to do, and it's something that's going to help the team."
Connaughton should have a good chance to continue that success against Kennesaw State (1-8), which has dropped seven in a row and ranks among the worst in the nation in allowing opponents to shoot 50.9 percent from the field. Charlotte shot a season-high 64.3 percent during Sunday's 66-52 win over the Owls.
Kennesaw State is guided by second-year coach Lewis Preston, who was an Irish assistant under Brey from 2000-06.
"He did a great job for us for six years. He did a fabulous job coaching our big guys," Brey said. "He's trying to build a program down there and we certainly welcome him back."
Senior Markeith Cummings (18.4 ppg), Kennesaw State's all-time leading scorer with 1,750 points, is expected back after missing Sunday's contest for undisclosed reasons. He had 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting in an 80-62 loss at Notre Dame on Nov. 24, 2009.