Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fugetaboutit! Irish To Bounce Back Against Rutgers

It could be real easy to sulk and mull over what could have been last Wednesday when the Irish had an opportunity to beat Connecticut. Thank goodness for Rutgers! Yes, Notre Dame has had it struggles in New Jersey, 3-7 all time at the RAC; but the Irish are facing the last place team in the league. The Scarlet Knights, losers of five straight, are dead last in the conference in scoring (62.9 pts per contest), FG % (40.0%), 3pt. FG% (31.0%), and have the most turnovers (15.3 a game). Did I mention that they have only two wins in league play?

Even though Rutgers has beaten Pittsburgh on the road, the Knights are 1-5 in the Big East at home. The Irish can improve their road record to .500 with the win, and still keep on pace for their second consecutive first round bye in the Big East Tournament. Notre Dame just needs to get out of the gates early and not let up, like the Seton Hall contest.

Luke Harangody will dominant in the post when he faces a fairly small Rutgers defense. Rob Kurz will bounce back after having an off game behind a strong family contingent in the crowd. Kyle McAlarney will have some family and friends in attendance, which means another solid performance for the Staten Island, NY, sharpshooter!

If it comes down to Free Throw shooting, the Irish will dominate. Notre Dame owns a decisive advantage from the charity stripe over its opponents. The Irish have outscored their opponents 392-198 from the line in 23 games and 2007-08 against BIG EAST foes. Rutgers is one of the worst in the conference, shooting only 64.9% from the line. OUCH!

The key for the Irish will be strong guard play from Tory Jackson, and bench production from Ryan Ayers, Luke Zeller, and Jonathan Peoples. If Notre Dame can get around 20 + points from their reserves, the Irish will win easily. Look for the Irish to deepen their bench on Sunday for their 19th win of the season.

Prediction: Notre Dame 89 Rutgers 70

Baseline Bits

~ Notre Dame leads the all-time series 13-11 with 19 of those contests taking place since both schools became members of the BIG EAST Conference in 1995-96. The Irish have won each of the last two meetings, including last season 73-66 win at the RAC on March 3, 2007, which marked the final regular contest of the 2006-07 campaign.

~ The Irish have won 16 of their last 19 games and are off to an 18-5 start through the first 23 contests of the season for the second consecutive year. The best start for an Irish team following 23 games under head coach Mike Brey was in 2002-03 when that squad raced to a 19-4 start in his third season at the helm.

~ Luke Harangody recorded a career-best sixth straight double-double against Connecticut on Wednesday night when he scored a career-high 32 points and matched his career-high with 16 rebounds. It also marked the first time in his career with six consecutive double-doubles. In the last six contests, he has averaged 26.2 points and 13.0 rebounds.

~ Harangody has 14 double-doubles on the season and 14 in the last 19 contests, including nine of 11 BIG EAST games. The last Irish player to register six consecutive double-doubles was Ryan Humphrey in 2001-02 when he ended his career a double-double in the final 11 games of his career.

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