Irish to Face Unbeaten Wolverines

A 61-48 loss last weekend to North Carolina State was even more painful for the Notre Dame men's basketball team than the final score tells. The 48 points were the fewest ever by an Irish squad under head coach Mike Brey and the second time during his 161-game tenure that they failed to break the half-century mark.

"We just have to get tougher," guard Colin Falls said, who shot 1-for-9 in the loss. "We have to get tougher offensively, defensively, making plays, adjusting to adversity and those kinds of things."

Notre Dame will get a chance to make these adjustments this Saturday afternoon as they welcome Michigan to the Joyce Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. The Wolverines are riding into South Bend 4-0 and coming off a 74-53 win over Miami of Florida in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Michigan has won 10 of the past 12 meetings, including a 61-60 victory over the Irish last year in Ann Arbor. The rivalry is not quite to the level of football but it's stiff competition from a major conference opponent.

"I don't think it's that big of a rivalry," senior guard Chris Quinn said. "It's more the name Michigan versus Notre Dame. As far as basketball, I've only played them one time in my career. At the same time, it's a big game for our team. They are a great opponent and coming off some great wins. It's big for us."

"It's not the biggest game but at the same time we're playing a Big Ten team," Falls said. "Obviously Notre Dame and Michigan is always a big deal. We're approaching this like a big game."

The Irish face the prospect of falling to .500 on the season with a loss and it doesn't get any easier following this game. A tough trip down south to Alabama awaits Notre Dame next Wednesday. For their own sake, ridding their systems of the N.C. State loss would be a good place to start. The Irish shot only 37 percent from the field and had only three players score in double figures. To make matters worse, Notre Dame had to wait a week to get back on the court to redeem themselves for the poor performance.

"As a competitor, whenever you lose you want to get back on the court the next day," Quinn said. "But that's not always possible. In most cases, you're able to get back on the court in the middle of the week but we've had to wait a week. That's something we've talked about at practice a little bit. Hopefully it'll show in our play.

"After any game, win or lose, even more so after a loss, you're going to be critical and look at what you can do better. There are definitely some things on offense and even on the defensive end we can improve on."

The Irish will have to improve against a veteran Wolverine group. Michigan's five players who average the most minutes per game are either juniors or seniors. The Wolverines are led by guard Daniel Horton. The 6-3 senior is averaging 16 PPG while 6-11 Courtney Sims and 6-6 Lester Abram both aren't far behind with 14.5 PPG. The Wolverines shoot 48 percent from the field, including an incredible 69 percent by Sims. Michigan outrebounds their opponents by a margin of nine a game and also average nine steals a contest. The challenge will be great for the Notre Dame team.

"It's always fun playing against good competition," Quinn said. "That's why you play college basketball and come to a big-time conference. You want to play against the best."

An interesting subplot of the game is the dual between the two coaches. Brey and Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker both served under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Amaker played at Duke between 1984-87 and served as an assistant coach for nine years. Brey was also there and the two enjoyed the Blue Devils' national championships in 1991 and 1992. Despite the ties between them, the Irish players have not seen their head coach more pumped than usual.

"I don't sense it from Coach Brey really much at all," Quinn said. "But probably deep down anytime you coach against a guy who came from the same similar style of background, you want to win a little extra."

"It might be similar styles of play," Falls said. "Their team has good guards and likes to get it inside. They run the motion offense. But other than that, it's just a basketball game. You can't read too much into that."


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