Irish Look to Rebound from Tough Loss

A loss can sometimes stay with a team. The Notre Dame men's basketball team had a defeat last Saturday that could be put in that category. Up four with two minutes to play, the Irish allowed Michigan to score the final eight points of the game and leave South Bend with a victory. Head coach Mike Brey said his group must learn from the late-game mistakes.

"As disappointed as we were because we were in a position to win it, we did some things in a big time game that this group has never done before," Brey said. "We want to hang our hat on a few of those things in game four and early December but understand these are the things we didn't do that cost us the ballgame. This group all year will invest and prepare consistently, both physically and emotionally, after every game whether it's a win or a tough loss. If we can do that, we have a chance to improve."

The chance will come tonight as the Irish (2-2) travel down south to face the 22nd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. and ESPN will televise the game. For Notre Dame it's a chance to shake off the Wolverine loss and earn a huge non-conference win on the road to spruce up their NCAA Tournament resume. The players hope the improvement seen from the N.C. State game can continue but this time culminate in a win.

"We moved the ball a lot better and scored more points," senior guard Chris Quinn said about the Michigan game. "But it's hard to see the improvements sometimes when you lose because it's kind of devastating the way we lost. We got to use some of those improvements to get better and more confident."

The Crimson Tide are 4-1 on the season with their only loss coming at home to Memphis. The Notre Dame big men, most notably Torin Francis, will have their hands full down low. Senior forward Chuck Davis leads Alabama in scoring by piling up 17 points per contest while 6-10 junior Jermareo Davidson, Jr. is averaging 14.8 PPG and hauling down 12.4 rebounds a game. Both of these players are SEC All-Conference members from last year and are the main reason why the Crimson Tide are outrebounding their opponents by a margin of seven a contest.

"When you talk X's and O's, the thing that really hurt us at the end of the Michigan game could hurt us all game vs. Alabama," Brey said. "We outrebounded Michigan overall but allowed two putbacks late in the game in the last three minutes, which were huge. That really hurt us. This team, their strength is the offensive backboard. We have to do the job and not allow them to play volleyball on the backboard. We're also are going to have to handle some pressure. They've been picking up full court. Can we handle pressure? This is the first road atmosphere we've faced."

"You look at their two big guys, there is a ton of talent there," Quinn said. "Those guys can really play. They are big and athletic and two guys we have to look for. We're going to have to keep an eye on them and have our guards help out."

If the upset is to occur, the Irish are going to have to shoot the three-pointer better than they did in the past two ballgames. In losses to N.C. State and Michigan, Notre Dame shot a combined 9-for-38 from behind the arc. For the season, the team is 28-of-81 (34.6 percent). Brey knows eventually his team will come out of this mini-slump.

"There have been a few bad ones in there," Brey said. "Russell (Carter) has to be careful not to take one too early. I thought he took a couple early. I don't want to take that away from him totally because he's a pretty good three-point shooter. Guys like Quinn and (Colin) Falls early in the possession, we're given the green light. The other guys have to be more careful about it. There is a fine line about what's a bad shot and guys being able to shoot it with confidence. I never want them to look at the bench and worry when they take a shot. I think that's why we've had some confident shooters. You have to live with some borderline ones and even a few bad ones."

Particularly troubling is the shooting of Falls. The junior guard has only hit one of his last 11 three-pointers and is shooting 33 percent from that distance. Falls is only hitting 28 percent of all his shots and has not made a two-point basket on the year.

"We need him," Brey said. "There is no question about that. But I don't want to be so blinded about getting Colin going. Chris Quinn and Torin, we need that type of performance pretty regularly now from those two veterans. That's the one thing I'd like to keep going. I haven't had tunnel vision on getting Colin going. Let's just go out there and play. It'll work itself out over the next few games."


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