Return to Normalcy?

Recent editions of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish would bury a middle-tier team such as Georgetown on the Joyce Center Floor. Can the current crop of Irish follow suit tonight?

The last two-plus college basketball seasons have offered one constant for Irish fans: middle tier teams such as Georgetown don't leave South Bend with a victory.

In fact, teams not named "Connecticut" are a combined 0-47 in their last 47 trips to the Purcell Pavilion. For six seasons, Notre Dame has dominated at home, winning a head-shaking 111 of their last 119 games, and 48 of 55 Big East home games in that span. Three times they were perfect over the last six seasons with another season (2012) a solid 8-1 in nine league home tilts.

Each of those six squads routinely handled its business against the likes of Georgetown, a capable Top foe, but one with too many issues to go into South Bend and escape unscathed.

But Mike Brey's Irish have experienced their share of struggles of late. A blown lead and loss to Connecticut; a blown (brief) lead and loss at St. John's, a blown lead and heart-racing win vs. Rutgers two days ago.

It hasn't come easy for the Big East's pre-season No. 3 and current fifth-placed squad.

"They can come after you with some speed and athletic ability," said Brey of recent foe Rutgers. "Big East basketball, some older guards coming at you, you have to turn around and tape 'em up and get after it (in Sunday's practice) because Georgetown is going to come after us too. They really guard you."

Georgetown (12-4, 2-3) was 10-1 prior to conference play, its only loss an overtime defeat to then No. 1 Indiana. They've since dropped close games at Marquette and South Florida and were blown out at home by Pittsburgh. They also won by 16 at St. John's; the same Red Storm team came back and beat Notre Dame three days later.

"As a group, the attention to detail was not good," said head coach John Thompson, III after a loss to cellar-dweller South Florida Saturday night. "As a group, the effort needed to win in this league was not there."

Led by sophomore forward Otto Porter (14.3 points, 7.6 boards and 41.7 percent three-point percentage), the Hoyas have struggled to score (15th among 16 Big East teams at 64.1 points per game), and likewise rank second-to-last in rebounds per contest.

But after a three-game, nine-day period of inconsistent basketball, Brey's Irish are but a 5.5-point favorite over the desperate Hoyas.

"It's going to be hard in this league," said Brey Saturday night.

How hard likely depends on his team's execution late. Among their three losses are three blown leads (in November the Irish lead St. Joseph's 66-58 with four minutes remaining and were outscored 21-4 through overtime defeat).

Georgetown's goal will be to hang around. Make the game ugly in the second half, put pressure on Notre Dame, and steal one late. Its a blueprint Notre Dame can avoid with more urgency and aggressive, consistent attacking at the rim.

For the first time in two weeks, look for Notre Dame to play like a team separating itself from the pack.

Notre Dame 67 Georgetown 59 Top Stories