Red Hot Irish in Action

The Notre Dame men's basketball team hasn't lost a game since November 13th. Since the two-point defeat to Butler, the Irish have rolled off nine consecutive wins. Notre Dame is 10-1 on the year and ranked 19th in the Associated Press and 24th in the Coaches poll. One SI.com writer had the Irish as high as seventh in his power rankings.

The streak will be on the line Thursday night at the Joyce Center. The Irish host Rider and tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Notre Dame has been doing a lot of things right on the court. The Irish are at the top of several statistical categories in the Big East Conference. Want scoring? Notre Dame is first in the league, averaging 87 points per game. The Irish are besting their opponents on average by a margin of 23 points. This is second to Connecticut (10-0), who is the only team in the conference with a better record than the Irish. An Achilles heal in the past for Notre Dame has been rebounding. The Irish are second in the league to the Huskies by pulling down 40 boards a contest. Senior guard Russell Carter is third in the Big East in scoring (17.6 PPG) while junior forward Rob Kurz is fourth in rebounding (8.9 RPG).

The full arsenal was on display last week. In a 88-47 win over Army, Notre Dame got a big boost from the return of Colin Falls. The senior captain, recovering from shock therapy treatment on his left foot, scored 24 points, which included hitting all seven of his shots in the first half. For the contest, the Irish hit 15 three-pointers and outrebounded the Black Knights 45-22. Another impressive number from the blowout win: Notre Dame assisted on 27 of 31 made field goals.

Rider is the team that sits between the Irish continuing the winning streak to ten games in a row. The Broncs (7-4) are coming in with a bit of momentum. Rider beat Fairleigh Dickinson 74-72 back on December 22nd. The Broncs rallied from a 21-point second half deficit to earn the victory. Key in the victory was Harris Mansell's go-ahead three-point field goal with 36 seconds left to put Rider up 73-72. Terrance Mouton led the Broncs with 21 points with 18 of them coming in the second half. The win halted a mini two-game slide for Rider.

The Broncs are part of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. A big negative is the fact that Rider is second to last in the league in scoring defense, allowing teams to rack up 72 points per game. Oddly, the Broncs are third in the league in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 42 percent shooting. Kurz and freshman Luke Harangody might take advantage of Rider's -2.6 rebounding margin per contest. The Broncs will counter with 6'10" Jason Thompson. The junior forward leads the Broncs in scoring, averaging 20.6 PPG. He also pulls down a team-high eight rebounds a contest and chips in two blocked shots per game.


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