Preview: Eastern Michigan

A week ago, Notre Dame looked like a stumbling team. Back-to-back losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech in the Paradise Jam Tournament in the Virgin Islands, both in the final minute, brought the Irish to .500 and looking to re-find their groove. A week and two games later, Notre Dame has earned two straight victories and more importantly got into an offensive rhythm at home.

The Irish downed Youngstown State and Colgate this past week. In the process, Notre Dame totaled their two best offensive performances of the season in notching the team's 23rd straight victory at the Joyce Center. A chance for No. 24 and an attempt to tie the school record will come on Saturday night. The Irish will host Eastern Michigan with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 PM in South Bend.

Notre Dame will be a double-digit favorite against the Eagles and barring an upset in December, the question should not be if Irish tie the mark but by how much. Notre Dame has a extremely manageable home non-conference slate, with contests against Northern Illinois, San Francisco, Brown and North Florida before Big East play starts on January 3rd in South Bend versus West Virginia.

The Irish are in the midst of a stretch of nine of ten contests at the Joyce Center. The lone game away from South Bend is a meeting with Kansas State next Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. With the losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech, it's almost imperative for Notre Dame to win the contest and have a quality non-conference win on their NCAA Tournament resume.

The victories over Youngstown State and Colgate showed the Irish faithful that Kyle McAlarney is back to form. The junior guard was dismissed from the University last season before Big East play after an arrest for marijuana possession. After re-enrolling at Notre Dame in the summer and getting back on the team, McAlarney started out the first four games slow. The low was a 1-of-11 performance in the loss to Baylor.

But the junior lit it up this past week, scoring 23 points against the Penguins and 25 versus the Raiders, which is a new career-high. In the victory over Colgate, McAlarney nailed 7-of-10 shots from three-point range, part of the team's 13-of-28 performance from behind the arc, good for 46 percent. The junior's backcourt mate, Tory Jackson, dished out seven assists to just one turnover. Notre Dame assisted on 25 of 32 made baskets versus Colgate, a game after 24 assists on 32 made field goals against Youngstown State.

McAlarney, Jackson and the Irish will try to make it three in a row overall and 24 straight at the Joyce Center on Saturday against Eastern Michigan. The Eagles are coming off 72-68 home loss to Detroit Mercy. Eastern Michigan held a 10-point second half lead before the Titans made a rally to secure victory. The Eagles lost despite hitting 12-of-25 from three-point range, good for 48 percent.

Eastern Michigan has two players averaging in double figures. The Eagles are led by Jesse Bunkley. The 6-5 senior averages 15 points per game and is shooting 44 percent from the field, including 45 percent from three-point range. Forty-seven of Bunkley's 59 shot attempts have come from behind the arc. Carlos Medlock adds 13.3 PPG. The 6-0 junior doesn't have a great shooting rate at 34 percent but has shot more than any other Eastern Michigan player. Justin Dobbins is the force down low. The 6-8 sophomore leads with team with seven rebounds a contest and adds 9.8 PPG. Wendale Farrow, a 6-7 junior, chips in with six points and six rebounds a game. On defense, the Eagles are allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field and Eastern Michigan has committed 21 more turnovers than assists.


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