"The Alabama game was very important for us," head coach Mike Brey said. "We were kind of wondering after losing to N.C. State and a close one at home to Michigan. The confidence certainly has grown. Chris (Quinn) and Torin (Francis) have really set the tone. The last two games, you should really add (Colin) Falls to that group because he's played like the veteran he is. We need those guys to be reliable as heck and then let me worry about the new guys."
The Irish will look to continue the winning ways on Sunday as they take an in-state road trip to face Indiana University-Purdue University of Fort Wayne. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum. For Notre Dame (4-2), it's a chance for their third win in a row and starts a stretch of three games in five days. After eight days off and the players finishing final examinations, the Irish will get back in the swing of things quickly.
"It'll be a good routine for us," Brey said. "The interesting thing is that we've had three three-game weeks in the non-conference but we'll have none of that in the Big East. We have a whole bunch of two-game weeks. I like the fact that we're back at work. This is an important time because they're on break and you have their full attention. There are no distractions with academics or no distractions with anyone on campus with friends. I think we can even make more progress."
IPFW (2-6) has lost their last two games by a combined 151-97 margin. In those games, the Mastodons committed 36 turnovers and for the season average 15 a contest to only 11 assists. Sophomore guard DeWitt Scott leads IPFW in scoring with 14.8 points per game while freshman Kyle Savely comes off the bench to chip in 11.1 PPG. A sure sign of their fortunes: the Mastodons are 2-0 when leading at halftime and 0-6 when trailing. Brey wants his team to continue the forward momentum created last week.
"I would like us not to focus too much on IPFW but continue to focus on what we can do better," Brey said. "I think we took a step forward with the Alabama/Florida International week. Can we continue to get better this week? We have three games in five days. It's a busy week."
IPFW's head coach might be a familiar face to Irish fans. Dane Fife is in his first year at the helm of the Mastodons after spending the last two seasons as an assistant to Mike Davis at Indiana University. Fife played collegially for the Hoosiers, where he was part of the 2001-2002 national runner-up team. That season, he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was known for his hard-nosed play. Brey sees that same type of aggressive attitude within the IPFW team.
"I'm impressed with how hard Dane has them playing," Brey said. "He was very competitive as a player and they've sort of taken on his personality as a basketball team when you watch them against Michigan State and Kent State."
Brey's first college head coaching job came with the Delaware Blue Hens after he spent time at Duke learning under Mike Krzyzewski. Brey knows exactly what Fife is going through and what his toughest challenge will be in turning around the Mastodon basketball program.
"The biggest thing for him is recruiting," Brey said. "He's really beating the bushes hard trying to get key guys in there and re-stocking the talent. Another thing is that he's establishing an identity as a coach. He's probably been wondering about some things. Who am I? What do I believe in? Is this our system? Is this the right way? For him, he's such a natural. He will be very successful in our profession."