Preview: Notre Dame at Boston College

In search of a program-record sixth road win in conference play, the Irish face a wounded, weary rival in Olivier Hanlan and the Eagles Saturday in Chestnut Hill.

• Game 28: Boston College (9-16, 1-12) @ No. 10 Notre Dame (23-4, 11-3)
• Place: Silvio Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
• Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN 3 (Comcast 101 local)
• Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
• Location: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
• Nickname: Eagles
• 2013-14 record: 8-24 (4-14 in ACC)

In his first year at the helm with the Eagles, Jim Christian holds a 251-169 career mark in 13 seasons, coaching previously at Kent State (137-59 in six seasons including two NCAA Tournament appearances), TCU (56-73 in four years) and Ohio (49-21 including two-season win totals of 24 and 25, respectively).

Boston College is mired in last place, 1-12 in the ACC, 9-16 overall, and haven't won since earning a 64-62 advantage at Georgia Tech in late January.

Said Christian of Notre Dame following a 71-63 Irish victory over his Eagles on Feb. 4 in South Bend, "We couldn't have started the game any worse (34-9 Notre Dame). They're an excellent basketball team; it really had a lot to do with them.

"This was one of those games where you have to take your one-on-one guarding assignment very personal because they're so good at moving without the basketball. They put you in so many tough spots, so that if you let penetration happen they make you pay…we did an awful job of it in the first half, and they did a great job of taking advantage of it."

It's Olivier Hanlan and his helpers.

The six-foot-four junior guard averages a league-best 18.6 points per game and has hit for 30 or more points in three of his team's last four outings, all Eagles losses. Remarkably, Hanlan connected on at least 50 percent of his field goal attempts in each of those 30-point outbursts.

He's a volume shooter, but one that makes shots, and against Notre Dame in the teams' previous meeting, Hanlan did just that, nailing 11 of his 16 attempts for 28 points including a personal 14-to-6 run that cut the host's lead from 13 points to six with under a minute remaining.

The late rally, (Boston College at one point trailed 34-9) will likely stick with the Irish as they take the court today. "There's no question; they got our attention," said Brey of the Eagles comeback. They made a run on us and I think (Hanlan) made 14 straight. The awareness of him, other guys maybe shooting it great, because they do have guys that can make shots."

Among them are fifth-year senior swingman Aaron Brown (just 4 of 14 in the first meeting) and six-foot-six guard Patrick Heckmann. Brown has attempted 10 more three-point shots than has the team's top player Hanlan (151-141) but connected on just 32 percent of his offerings. He's nonetheless hit for double digits in nine straight including a 19-point performance at home vs. Syracuse (7-14 from the field) and a 28-point outburst vs. Louisville.

Look for Brown, who's played for three schools over his college career (first Temple, graduating last year at Southern Mississippi) to bring his best vs. a league heavyweight today.

A native of Germany, Heckmann has shot well at home, hitting a combined 27 of his combined 55 field goal attempts vs. major conference foes. (He made just one of seven shot attempts in South Bend.) Heckmann is a steady rebounder as well, collecting between five and nine caroms in six of his last nine outings, while also compiling 19 assists in the Eagles last three games.

Seven-foot-one, 250-pound junior center Dennis Clifford leads the team in rebounding, grabbing 5.1 per contest while adding more than a blocked shot per game. Clifford struggles to score, but he was able to add 10 points to the Eagles' efforts earlier this week vs. Miami.

Either Dmitri Batten or Garland Owens will round out the Eagles starting five. The athletic Owens started in Wednesday's home loss against Florida State (in place of Batten) can play above the rim, and could give the Irish issues on the offensive glass if he's not identified as the shot goes up.

Boston College's best effort in conference play was likely a 61-60 overtime home loss to Pittsburgh in early January, though the struggling Eagles more recently took Miami to double overtime, an 89-86 home defeat Monday. BC beat Providence, 69-60, just two weeks after the Friars handed Notre Dame its only loss of the fall semester, 75-74 at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT).

"I expect a really hard one because it could make their season."

Such is life for Notre Dame and head coach Mike Brey, a potential No 2 seed (in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments) and legitimate top 10 team for most of 2015.

"ND/BC, it's a great rivalry, certainly we're coming in with a great resume," Brey added. "It could be the kind of game that could make their season, and they have a guy (Hanlan) that can get 30.

"I think we're going to have a great crowd because our three Boston guys (Zach Auguste, Marlborough, Bonzie Colson, New Bedford, and senior captain Pat Connaughton, Arlington) maybe bought half the tickets up there. Our three Boston guys are going to be ready to play and I hope that energizes the rest of us."

With the exception of a blowout loss at Duke, the Irish have answered the bell in road outings this season, already posting a 5-2 mark in league play, and a sixth road win would be a program record in either Big East or ACC competition. (The Irish finish their road slate on March 4 at Louisville.)

Losers of seven straight, Boston College is winless in league home games (7-7 overall), but they nonetheless make life markedly more difficult for foes that travel to Chestnut Hill, playing both Louisville and North Carolina to a tie through the first half of their matchups.

"Are they having one of those days where they're making double digit 3s?" Brey noted among his chief concerns for the homebound Eagles. "It's a game where we have to score to get a win in a road game."

Brey's focus on putting up the points is relevant as the Eagles are 0-9 when their foe scores 70 or more points this season. Notre Dame has been limited under that number just four times this season: Georgia Tech (road), Duke (road), Clemson (road) and Virginia (in South Bend). The Cavaliers and Tigers rank as the league's first and third stingiest teams, respectively, and the Blue Devils ranked as the best team in the world when they bundled the Irish on Feb. 7 in Durham.

Notre Dame will continue to score and Boston College will likely shoot it well in an inspired effort, but today's outing is the third in six days for the Eagles after weather forced a Sunday, Feb. 15 game vs. Miami to move to Monday. The contest then went to double overtime, a draining home defeat for an Eagles squad that hasn't found a way to win in myriad close calls.

Expect another. Notre Dame came out smoking in South Bend, racing to a 34-9 lead when the teams met earlier this month. A tight first half is conversely the likely result today before the superior Irish -- a tremendous second-half team out of the locker room this season -- pull away from their leg-weary hosts.

• Pointspread: Notre Dame by 6.5
• Irish Illustrated Prediction: Notre Dame 78 Boston College 69
• Season record: 19-8 straight up; 10-9 vs. points
• Individual Pick to Click: Demetrius Jackson, who shoots better outside of South Bend Top Stories