Win or Stay Home for Irish

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey made no bones about Wednesday's game against Providence. After some more late failures by the Irish in a 80-72 loss to Marquette, Brey knows that nothing else but a win will do. In the position that Notre Dame has put themselves in, that might be the understatement of a long, painful year.

Facing a distinct possibility of being left at home for the Big East Tournament, the Irish will look to save their season as they travel east to take on Providence. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Notre Dame currently sits at 14th place in the conference. This is a game back of Louisville, St. John's and the Friars, who are all tied for 12th place. Only the top-12 get invitations to New York City. One does not have to be a math major to deduce that the Irish are behind the eight ball in this season of heartbreak.

Earlier in the year, Providence provided one of those rare moments of triumph for Notre Dame. Back on January 14th at the Joyce Center, some deadly shooting by the Irish contributed to a 92-77 win over the Friars. For the contest, Notre Dame shot a lethal 56 percent from the field, including 61 percent from three-point range. Chris Quinn had one of his better performances of the season, scoring 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Colin Falls also poured in 24 points.

These two will have to do better than they did in the loss to Marquette this past weekend. Quinn and Falls, the top two scorers on the Irish team, combined to shoot just 4-of-21 from the field. Notre Dame also has to handle the ball better. The Irish committed 16 turnovers against the Golden Eagles. Notre Dame had been fifth best in the Big East in limiting these types of mistakes.

The Friars (12-13, 5-9 in conference play) are right behind the Irish in scoring offense. Providence averages 74 points per game, just two behind Notre Dame. The problem for the Friars: they couldn't guard a hot dog stand. Providence ranks dead last in the Big East in scoring defense. This might be the explanation for why the Irish lit them up in the first contest.

The Friars leading scorer is Donnie McGrath. The 6-4 senior guard is averaging 15 PPG in his last season with the Friars. The team's second leading scorer, big man Randall Hanke, contributes 13 PPG but at 6'11", only pulls down four rebounds a contest. In the first meeting between these two teams, McGrath and Hanke combined for just 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting as Hanke was plagued by foul trouble.

These two are not alone in providing production. Three freshmen, Sharaud Curry, Geoff McDermott and Weyinmi Efejuku, all score eight points a game or more. McDermott, who stands at 6'7", is the team's leading rebounder at just under nine a contest. Curry's three assists a game tops the team on offense.


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