Preview: Gonzaga

A look at tonight's matchup between Gonzaga and the No. 23 ranked Irish at the Purcell Pavilion.

No. 23 Notre Dame vs. Gonzaga

Team Records: Notre Dame (8-1) vs. Gonzaga (4-4)

Tip-off: 8:30 PM on ESPN2

Previous Results: Both teams played Wednesday: Notre Dame dropped its first game of the season, a 72-58 decision vs. No. 16 Kentucky in Freedom Hall. The Bulldogs lost 81-59 at Washington State

Stat to boast: Notre Dame has won 14 of its last 18 games dating back to last February 17. Two of those losses have occurred in Freedom Hall – a 91-89 double OT defeat to host Louisville as well as Wednesday's loss to Kentucky.

Three of the four Irish losses were to ranked foes including a Big East semi-final defeat vs. West Virginia. The Mountaineers won the Conference crown and advanced to the NCAA Final Four. Among Notre Dame's most impressive victories during its last l8 outings: Pittsburgh (twice), Georgetown, Connecticut, Marquette, Georgia, California and Wisconsin.

Early Season Quote to Note: "We had early mistakes, we wanted to concentrate on cutting down on them and getting back in the game," Jones said. "As a team we said we needed to stop (Hansbrough). If we do that, we take over the game and it'll be easy." – Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones on they key to their Wednesday night victory after the teams battled to a 40-40 tie at intermission.

Series History: Tonight's game will be the first meeting between the Irish and the Bulldogs

Point Spread: Notre Dame -8

Notre Dame Starters and Key Contributors

  • Forward: 6'8" 218-pound senior Carleton Scott – Has hit for double figures in seven consecutive contests though his shot volume could be a bit higher than anticipated…Knocked down 32 of 70 shots during that seven-game span with 25 of his 38 misses coming from long range…Leads the Irish with 7.8 boards and 2.1 blocked shots per game; his 19 blocked shots account for more than half the team's total.

  • Forward: 6'8" 235-pound senior Tim Abromaitis – Ranks second on the squad in scoring (14.3) and rebounds (7.0) per game but has struggled to find the range from downtown, hitting on just over 29 percent of his three-point offerings…2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio an improvement after last season, his first as a regular contributor…Hit double-figures in just two of last four games despite playing more than 30 minutes in each…Has nonetheless posted the two highest scoring games of the season for the Irish with back-to-back 26 and 25-point efforts in late November.

  • Forward: 6'8" 232-pound senior Tyrone Nash – All-purpose forward ranks third in scoring (12.0), rebounds (6.4) and assists (3.0) while leading the squad in free throws attempted (72) and made (54) as well as offensive rebounds (24)…Has suffered 12 turnovers in his last four games after committing just five over the season's first five outings.

  • Guard/Forward: 6'8" 219-pound senior Scott Martin – Still knocking off the rust after two seasons on the sideline including a 2009-10 campaign lost to a knee injury…Averaging 9.8 points and 4.1 boards but has hit just two of his last 12 from long range and has sub par shooting percentages of 42/66/21 (FG/FT/3PT) on the season…Location of his purportedly solid mid-range game a must for the Irish offense as it heads into conference play.

  • Guard: 6'3" 203-pound senior Ben Hansbrough – Leads the Irish with 16.3 ppg while hitting at a 50 percent clip from the field…Has connected on 9 of his last 14 three-point shots while scoring 45 points in that two-game span…Turnovers higher than expected this season with 23 vs. 34 assists; Hansbrough ranked among the nation's elite last winter with a better than 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio…Unconscious in first half of Wednesday's loss to Kentucky during which he scored 19 of his team-high 21 points.

Key Reserves:

  • Guard: 6'2" 173-pound freshman Eric Atkins – Basically the team's sixth starter, averaging better than 27 minutes per game with just 12 total turnovers through his first nine collegiate contests…Ranks second to Ben Hansbrough with 38 assists while scoring at a 7.0 ppg. clip, but is 0-7 from the field over his last two outings with just four total points.

  • Center/Forward: 6'9" 244-pound sophomore Jack Cooley – Teams seventh-man averages more than 11 minutes per game including 13 Wednesday night after playing just 16 total in the team's previous three contests…Second on the team with 16 offensive rebounds and has also hit 17 of his 27 field goal attempts, nearly all of which have occurred inside five feet of the rim.

  • Forward: 6'6" 215-pound sophomore Joey Brooks Has just two points in the last six games after scoring 16 in the seasons first three contests; played more minutes in those three games (48) than he has in the six since (31)…The true sophomore isn't bereft of offensive skills but does lack polish and is thus viewed by the staff as a player that can help defend multiple defensive positions for stretches…Look for a bit more time from Brooks vs. the athletic swingmen in the Big East.

Meet the Bulldogs

Ranked No. 12 in the pre-season, Mark Few's Zags have scuffled to a 4-4 start though the quartet of losses have occurred vs. quality foes such as #15 San Diego State, #5 Kansas State, Illinois and Washington State (7-1). NCAA Tourney regulars, the Bulldogs have a true road to their credit with a win at Marquette as well.

Senior swingman Steven Gray leads the Bulldogs with 18.4 ppg in nearly 35 minutes of action. The battle tested veteran has bettered his scoring average in each of his four seasons as a regular and is a threat from long range at 41 percent though is the definition of a streak shooter, missing 8 of 10 three-point offerings twice while connecting on 6 of 8 and 5 of 8 in two separate games this season.

7-foot junior Robert Sacre mans the middle, scoring 11.4 per game while leading the team with 7.5 rebounds per contest. Sacre totaled 21 points and 20 boards in the team's last two losses to Illinois and Washington State but has struggled with the ball, committing 14 turnovers over his last four outings and has suffered 24 on the season vs. six assists from the low block.

Sophomore forward Elias Harris' numbers are down after a standout freshman season. The 6'8" 215-pounder has posted averages of 9.7 points and 4.3 boards after tallying 14.3 and 7.1 last season. An NBA prospect at the season's outset, Harris has battled a shoulder and Achilles injury throughout the season and the Zag's have floundered without his board-work and athleticism.

7-foot sophomore Kelly Olynyk and 6'9" frosh Sam Dower have combined for 15 points and 9 boards over 30 total minutes per game in his absence.

Much was expected of the Zags with four starters return from last year's tourney squad. They're battle tested and confident despite the string of early losses. Expect a huge road effort tonight from a team in a near must-win situation.

But the Irish are a coolly efficient team at home: patient and deliberate offensively but with quick strike ability from the outside. They share the ball, defend and hit the glass as a unit. Look for Mike Brey's senior-laden crew to bounce back from the season's first defeat…even if the apathetic fan base isn't on hand to witness.

Prediction: Notre Dame 78 Gonzaga 72 Top Stories