The first test comes on Saturday night. The Irish will host Brown at the Joyce Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM. Notre Dame has won 26 straight at home, which is a new school record. In most of these games, the Irish have won with ease behind an explosive offense.
Last Saturday night, the situation was a little different. Notre Dame was up 23 at one point in the first half against San Francisco and held a 43-29 halftime lead. But the Dons made a charge in the second half and cut the deficit to 52-47 with 13 minutes remaining. The Irish turned to Luke Harangody and the sophomore delivered. Harangody, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, poured in 12 of the teams 16 points during the decisive stretch that expanded the lead out to double-digits. The sophomore finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the year.
The San Francisco contest was also a good one for Tory Jackson. The sophomore point guard had been struggling with his shot. Jackson was hitting just 35 percent from the field going into the game with the Dons, including 2-of-19 from three-point range. But the sophomore had his best showing of the year, totaling 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting and dishing out 10 assists. It was Jackson's first double-double of the year and second of his young career.
The Irish have been extremely good at home during the current 26-game winning streak. That might mean bad news for Brown (6-4), who last week ranked 212th in Division I in scoring offense. The Bears won their last time out 79-61 over Hartford. Brown has won four of their past five games with a 19-point loss at Providence scrunched in during that stretch. Head coach Craig Robinson is in his second year at the helm of the program. In his first season, Robinson was named Ivy League Coach of the Year after leading the team to a 11-18 mark.
The Bears are led by Mark McAndrew, who led the Ivy League in scoring last year. The 6-2 senior is the team's leading scorer at over 15 PPG and more than half of McAndrew shot attempts come from three-point range. Damon Huffman, a 6-2 senior, is the second of three Brown players averaging in double figures. Help on the offensive end of the floor appears to have arrived in the form of Chris Skrelja. The 6-6 junior forward was named Ivy League Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 29 points in the win over Hartford. Skrelja hit 11-of-12 from the field and scored 16 points in second half to push is season average up to 10 PPG.