The Irish, though, do catch a break. Notre Dame, currently on a five-game losing streak (the longest since the 1993-94 season), has a legitimate chance to string together a few victories in a row with home contests against other bottom feeders in conference play. It starts on Wednesday night as the Irish host Rutgers at the Joyce Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the game is being televised on ESPN Classic. The Scarlet Knights have not been much better than Notre Dame, losers of five of their past six contests for a record of 13-9 overall, including 3-6 in league action.
The heartbreak tour that has become the Notre Dame basketball season continued its trek around the nation last Saturday afternoon in Louisville. The scenario was a little different but the ending the same. Up three after two free throws by Chris Quinn, Dean got the ball on the right wing with the time ticking down. The senior guard threw up a contested 23-foot three-pointer that found nothing but the bottom of the net to send the game into overtime. In the extra session, the Cardinals took control and Quinn's off-balance shot from behind the arc was woefully off as Notre Dame lost their eighth Big East game of the year.
Quinn finished the contest with 31 points, his third 30-point effort of the season and helped him earn a place on the Big East Weekly Honor Roll List. Russell Carter continued his strong play with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting. As a team in the Louisville game, the Irish shot 17-of-34 from three-point distance. It was their second straight effort of 50 percent or better from behind the arc but that still could not get them over the victorious hump.
Rutgers comes a calling to South Bend in a crucial match-up. The Scarlet Knights sit at 3-6 in the Big East, a full two games ahead of Notre Dame. The Irish are second to last in the league, only ahead of South Florida (0-8 in Big East play) who visits the Joyce Center next week. The bottom four teams do not make the conference tournament at the end of the season. A loss here by the Irish would not only put further distance between them and the others in the standings but it would also mean that Notre Dame would lose out on the all-important tiebreakers in the struggle to make it to New York City.
The Scarlet Knights are led by junior Quincy Douby. The 6-3 dynamic guard is currently leading the Big East in scoring with a 23.9 average. He is leading Villanova's Randy Foye (20.6 PPG) and Allan Ray (19.6 PPG). Douby, despite weighing only 175 pounds, puts up these impressive numbers because of his 45 percent shooting from the field, including 39 percent from three-point land.
The problem for Rutgers has been getting production from the rest of the team. They rank just 11th in the league in scoring offense. Douby is the only Scarlet Knight player averaging double figures. There also is a lot of one-on-one action as Rutgers is 13th in the conference in assists per game. Junior guard/forward Marquis Webb is the team's second leading scorer at nine PPG while 6-9 big man Byron Joynes leads the team in rebounding by pulling down six a contest.