Irish Look to Keep Winning

Ranked for the first time since December of 2004, Notre Dame easily bested Elon last Saturday night at the Joyce Center. The reward: with Gonzaga going down to Georgia, the Irish inched up the Associated Press rankings to No. 20. Currently at 8-1, Notre Dame will once again put its winning streak on the line.

The Irish welcome in Portland to the Joyce Center on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. but there are no plans for the contest to be televised. Notre Dame has won seven straights games and the odds look good for number eight. Portland is 2-10 on the season with wins only over Montana State and UC Davis. Surely, the Irish will be double digit favorites in the contest.

In a 94-63 win over Elon, Notre Dame once again put a high number up on the scoreboard. The Irish have topped the 90-point plateau six times this year and rank first in the Big East and sixth nationally with a 87 PPG average. Rob Kurz was brilliant down low, totaling his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds. The junior forwards also dished out seven assists and blocked four shots. For his performance, Kurz was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll. On the year, he's averaging 15 PPG, second only to Russell Carter's 17 points a contest, and a team-high 8.9 RPG. Carter contributed a game-high 21 points in the win over the Phoenix. In his last two contests, the senior has shot 16-of-27 from the field (59 percent) and scored 48 points.

Portland should offer little resistance. The Pilots have lost seven games in a row, six of them by 12 points or more. They currently have the worst record in the West Coast Conference. With Notre Dame torching the nets on offense, a team must be able to score a lot of points to keep up. Portland ranks dead last in the WCC in scoring offense and field, averaging just 57 points a contest, and last in field goal percentage at 39 percent. In contrast, the Irish are shooting 50 percent from the field. Another dagger: the Pilots are at the bottom of the WCC in turnover margin. The only possible bright spot is being ranked 3rd in scoring defense in the conference, allowing 68 PPG.

To prove the point of their offensive woes, only one Portland player who has played in four-plus contests averages in double figures. Jamie Jones, a 6'7" sophomore forward, contributes 10.9 PPG (through 11 games) and also pulls down a team-best 8.9 RPG. Ben Sullivan, a 6'10" center, is second on the team in scoring with a 9.2 PPG average. Notre Dame fans should be aware of senior Darren Cooper. In his first game since November 11th because of a pulled hamstring , the 6'3" guard scored 16 points in a 68-51 loss to Utah State last Saturday. Cooper averaged 14.9 PPG last season and was named before the year by the WCC head coaches as one of the six top returners in the league. His early injury is a big reason why the Pilots are 2-10. 6'6' forward Sherrard Watson also chips in eight PPG. Top Stories