Smack-Free Zone

CLEVELAND – There were no bold predictions coming out of the Notre Dame camp here Friday. No proclamations on Kentucky’s perceived vulnerability. No commentary on the effort level displayed by the nation’s undefeated, top-ranked team.

Perhaps that’s what a 39-point shellacking of the previous opponent will do. Or maybe that’s just how Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish roll.

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The media sessions leading up to Saturday’s Elite 8 matchup between Kentucky (37-0) and Notre Dame (32-5) were borderline snooze-inducing compared to the ones that put reporters on high alert prior to West Virginia’s clash with the Wildcats

The closest the Irish came to talking a little bit of smack was the affable Brey declaring that Notre Dame would be “America’s Team” for at least one day.

“We certainly will take all that support,” Brey said. “We've got a monumental challenge on our hands, but we play in the best conference in America. Going through the teams we had to go through in ACC play, I think has us very prepared to play against a great team like Kentucky.”

Somewhat quietly, Notre Dame has been on a major roll of late. The Irish have reeled off eight consecutive wins, including victories over Louisville, Duke and North Carolina, the latter two coming in their ACC Tournament championship run.

Said Brey: “You know, given what we went through in that league, and especially what we did in our league tournament – to go through Duke and North Carolina on Friday and Saturday night – and the atmosphere will be the same (against UK) because it was all Duke blue and Carolina blue in Greensboro, and I know it will be whatever that shade of blue is out here tomorrow.

“I think it really has helped us. I think it's really prepared us for this atmosphere. And I loved in Greensboro how we just absorbed it and played fearlessly in it, and we're going to have to do that tomorrow against a great team.”

The matchup is being billed as a clash between perhaps the nation’s best offense against its best defense. Notre Dame is second nationally in field goal percentage (51.9) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.60). The Irish average only 9.6 turnovers a game, which, combined with 39-percent team 3-point shooting, help them average an impressive 78.2 points per game in an era of college basketball when teams often struggle to reach the 60s.

Kentucky counters with a defense ranked first nationally in field goal percentage (34.8) and second in blocked shots at close to seven per game. Opponents are scoring only 53.9 points per game against the Cats, including four that failed to reach the 40s. The latest was West Virginia on Thursday night as the Mountaineers posted the fewest points ever in a Sweet 16 game while shooting 24.1 percent from the field.

So something has to give.

“I sure hope we can get into a flow,” Brey said. “It's going to be harder for us to flow. We're the most efficient offensive team in the country. They're the best defensive team in the country. I think it's exciting to see how this thing plays out over 40 minutes.

“The one thing we've done better this year is, when we're not flowing offensively, it hasn't affected us on the defensive end. Some of my past teams, because they're talented offensive guys, if they couldn't get going offensively or we couldn't get going offensively, they wouldn't dig in defensively as much. This group is tougher and I think we're going to need that tomorrow because we're going to go through spells where we can't score on them, but we have to just get back and hold the fort as best we can.”

The Irish know it will take a special effort to derail Kentucky’s historic run, but they also carry some extra confidence from a program that has a history of playing well against the No. 1 team in the country. Notre Dame has played the top-ranked team 34 times, winning an impressive 10. Only one has come against a No. 1 UK team, however, a 67-61 win on Dec. 27, 1980, in Louisville’s Freedom Hall.

“I think obviously we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game,” said Notre Dame senior guard Jerian Grant (16.6 ppg, 6.7 apg). “Against a team like Kentucky, it’s not just going to be the guards, it’s really going to have to be everybody to bring their ‘A’ game.”

Added senior swingman Pat Connaughton (12.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg): “If you look at Kentucky’s team overall, they’re a fabulous team. In the way they’re unselfish, the way (the media) always talk about how they have nine McDonald’s All-Americans, and none of them really care about their stats; they care about winning. So they’re the true testament of a team.”

They’ll step onto the floor at Quicken Loans Arena as clear underdogs, but the Irish are adamant that it’s not a mismatch.

“Our team has never shied away from a challenge,” said sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson (12.6 ppg, 3.0 apg).

“At the end of the day,” Grant said, “it's not David versus Goliath. We have a lot of confidence going in.”




AllWildcats Top Stories

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Perhaps that’s what a 39-point shellacking of the previous opponent will do. Or maybe that’s just how Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish roll.

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\"Sign

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The media sessions leading up to Saturday’s Elite 8 matchup between Kentucky (37-0) and Notre Dame (32-5) were borderline snooze-inducing compared to the ones that put reporters on high alert prior to West Virginia’s clash with the Wildcats

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The closest the Irish came to talking a little bit of smack was the affable Brey declaring that Notre Dame would be “America’s Team” for at least one day.

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“We certainly will take all that support,” Brey said. “We've got a monumental challenge on our hands, but we play in the best conference in America. Going through the teams we had to go through in ACC play, I think has us very prepared to play against a great team like Kentucky.”

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Somewhat quietly, Notre Dame has been on a major roll of late. The Irish have reeled off eight consecutive wins, including victories over Louisville, Duke and North Carolina, the latter two coming in their ACC Tournament championship run.

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Said Brey: “You know, given what we went through in that league, and especially what we did in our league tournament – to go through Duke and North Carolina on Friday and Saturday night – and the atmosphere will be the same (against UK) because it was all Duke blue and Carolina blue in Greensboro, and I know it will be whatever that shade of blue is out here tomorrow.

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“I think it really has helped us. I think it's really prepared us for this atmosphere. And I loved in Greensboro how we just absorbed it and played fearlessly in it, and we're going to have to do that tomorrow against a great team.”

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The matchup is being billed as a clash between perhaps the nation’s best offense against its best defense. Notre Dame is second nationally in field goal percentage (51.9) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.60). The Irish average only 9.6 turnovers a game, which, combined with 39-percent team 3-point shooting, help them average an impressive 78.2 points per game in an era of college basketball when teams often struggle to reach the 60s.

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Kentucky counters with a defense ranked first nationally in field goal percentage (34.8) and second in blocked shots at close to seven per game. Opponents are scoring only 53.9 points per game against the Cats, including four that failed to reach the 40s. The latest was West Virginia on Thursday night as the Mountaineers posted the fewest points ever in a Sweet 16 game while shooting 24.1 percent from the field.

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So something has to give.

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“I sure hope we can get into a flow,” Brey said. “It's going to be harder for us to flow. We're the most efficient offensive team in the country. They're the best defensive team in the country. I think it's exciting to see how this thing plays out over 40 minutes.

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“The one thing we've done better this year is, when we're not flowing offensively, it hasn't affected us on the defensive end. Some of my past teams, because they're talented offensive guys, if they couldn't get going offensively or we couldn't get going offensively, they wouldn't dig in defensively as much. This group is tougher and I think we're going to need that tomorrow because we're going to go through spells where we can't score on them, but we have to just get back and hold the fort as best we can.”

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The Irish know it will take a special effort to derail Kentucky’s historic run, but they also carry some extra confidence from a program that has a history of playing well against the No. 1 team in the country. Notre Dame has played the top-ranked team 34 times, winning an impressive 10. Only one has come against a No. 1 UK team, however, a 67-61 win on Dec. 27, 1980, in Louisville’s Freedom Hall.

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“I think obviously we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game,” said Notre Dame senior guard Jerian Grant (16.6 ppg, 6.7 apg). “Against a team like Kentucky, it’s not just going to be the guards, it’s really going to have to be everybody to bring their ‘A’ game.”

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Added senior swingman Pat Connaughton (12.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg): “If you look at Kentucky’s team overall, they’re a fabulous team. In the way they’re unselfish, the way (the media) always talk about how they have nine McDonald’s All-Americans, and none of them really care about their stats; they care about winning. So they’re the true testament of a team.”

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They’ll step onto the floor at Quicken Loans Arena as clear underdogs, but the Irish are adamant that it’s not a mismatch.

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“Our team has never shied away from a challenge,” said sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson (12.6 ppg, 3.0 apg).

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“At the end of the day,” Grant said, “it's not David versus Goliath. We have a lot of confidence going in.”

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See what WILDCAT fans are saying here

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