Irish Try to Right the Ship

Losing is tough enough. But the fashion in which the Notre Dame men's basketball team is going down in defeat has almost a Shakespearean quality to it. The high drama plays out every contest and, unfortunately, compiling victories has not been achieved on a consistent basis for the scrappy Irish and head coach Mike Brey. The heartbreaking season has drawn sympathy from other coaches.

"It's such a fine line between winning and losing," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said, whose team beat Notre Dame 72-70 on a last second tip-in by diminutive guard Kyle Lowry. "We've been there before. I told Mike that after the game. I told him, ‘We've been there before and pull through.' It's the toughest thing in coaching."

"I think it takes its toll," Brey said. "There is no doubt about that. If we can be in game situations and have a chance for the rest of the year, that's all we can ask right now. You don't want to get down."

"Getting over the hump has been hard for us. God, I'd love to be in that position in Morgantown on Wednesday and give it a shot again."

That shot won't be an easy one. The Mountaineers head into Wednesday's home game ranked 11th in the nation and undefeated in the Big East Conference. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. in Morgantown and the game is being televised on ESPN. The times are tough for the Irish, 10-8 overall and 1-6 in the league, and the schedule does them no favors.

"At the point, every game is huge for us," Chris Quinn said after the loss to the Wildcats on Saturday. "The Big East is brutal. We had this game (Villanova) and now we go to West Virginia, another top-10 caliber team. We got to get back in here and get ready for them."

Every basketball fan knows about Kevin Pittsnogle. The tattoo wonder himself, featured recently in a Sports Illustrated article, is the team's leading scorer and is a tough matchup because of his 6-11 size and ability to drain shots from the perimeter. But it's the play of Mike Gansey that makes this team go. The 6-4 senior guard was just named to the John Wooden Award's final 30 list for Player of the Year honors. Gansey averages 19.1 points per game and over five rebounds a contest. He also is on fire from long-distance range, shooting 49 percent from behind the arc. The senior's most memorable play this year might have been when he cleanly stripped UCLA's Jordan Farmar with under 10 seconds remaining to seal a win a Pauley Pavilion.

Head coach Jon Beilein is quickly becoming a hot name in the coaching business. Last season, he took his team, seeded seventh in the NCAA Tournament, all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Louisville in overtime. Beilein's offense is similar in a lot of ways to Georgetown's. A mix of backdoor cuts and effective outside shooting has carried this team to a 14-5 record and atop the rugged Big East.

Besides the one-two punch of Gansey and Pittsnogle, the Mountaineers boast three other players averaging eight points or more. Joe Herber contributes nine PPG to go along with five assists a contest. Frank Young and the coach's son, Patrick Beilein, both add eight PPG while point guard J.D. Collins's assist-to-turnover ratio is 3 to 1.

A possible weakness of the Big East-leading Mountaineers? They rank next to last in the league in field goal percentage defense. West Virginia allows teams to shoot 44 percent from the field. Only DePaul, who is 1-6 in the conference and 8-10 overall, is worse. Notre Dame ranks in the top-five in the Big East in scoring offense and the Irish's three-point shooting, rated third in the league at 38.8 percent, could cause West Virginia some problems. Top Stories