In the 26-point loss to Marquette, the Irish committed one turnover after the other en route to the largest margin of defeat in the two teams' series history. Notre Dame appeared to right the ship after exploding for 64 points in the second half victory over Cincinnati. But all was not right. The Irish were held to 32 percent shooting from the field in the 19-point defeat at Georgetown four days later. Notre Dame is 0-for-2 in true road games this season.
"We haven't been as poised as we should have been," head coach Mike Brey said. "In the Marquette game, poise equaled taking care of the basketball. We kicked that thing around. We were better with the ball against Georgetown. If you go back and watch the first half of the Georgetown game, (Kyle) McAlarney, (Rob) Kurz and (Ryan) Ayers had some good looks. We need to score more and get into a better rhythm."
The third test will come this weekend. Notre Dame goes on the road again to face No. 18 Villanova (13-4, 3-3), who was upset on Wednesday at Rutgers, further proving how tough it is to win on the road in conference action. The Irish hope to do better than the first two trips away from the Joyce Center. Brey doesn't think the two blowout losses will creep into the minds of his players.
"That's something our leadership is in control of, as well as I am," Brey said of doubting themselves on the road. "You address things you think you can do better and go wing it again. I said we got seven more cracks at this road thing. Let's go give it a try. That's got to be the mentality you have and let it rip. That's how we got to be on Saturday."
Brey believes the Irish will embrace the task at hand.
"This group loves to compete and loves challenges," Brey said. "They have a high expectation of themselves, which I said could hurt them because they get so down on themselves when they're not playing well. My role is to diffuse that and make them play better. We got work to do but so does everyone else."
***It was reported in the Chicago Tribune that Brey was contemplating switching the starting lineup around for the Villanova contest. In all 17 games, Notre Dame has gone with Luke Harangody, Ryan Ayers, Tory Jackson, Kurz and McAlarney to start out. It would be a safe bet that Harangody, Kurz and McAlarney are not in the debate to sit on the bench for the opening tip. Brey shed some more light on the situation Thursday.
"You could go extreme and start all three guys off the bench," Brey said. "I don't think we'll do that. If we make a change, it'll probably be in one spot, if we do that. I'm not sure that's the best thing to do. I'll take today and tomorrow to evaluate that."
***It was announced on Wednesday that the Joyce Center crowd will look a little different next week at home. When the Irish host Providence on January 31st, camouflage shirts will be handed out to the entire lower arena at the Joyce Center. The bleacher sections are encouraged to wear their own camouflage shirts on what's being dubbed, "Camo Night."
As part of the evening, at halftime, Sgt. 1st Class John Adams from Southern Indiana will be honored and recognized. A side note: Brey visited Iraq and the American troops in the off-season as a part of Operation Hardwood IV.
"We had the blackout last year against Alabama," Brey said. "That was a fun and interesting night. I've done some stuff with our military and at Walter Reed. It's something different and I think our students will think it's a cool thing. It's also a way to honor our troops."
***Brey on one of the funniest rants he's heard from a fan since taking over as head coach at Notre Dame: "My first year, (Troy Murphy) fouls out. (Ryan) Humphrey played great. There was this guy four rows back. He had to be an adult. I didn't want to make eye contact because then you know he's got you. He was riding me the whole time and all over me. Finally, with about eight seconds, we have it won. I hear him say, ‘Okay, Brey. You got it. But you still got to go and live in South Bend.' That was his signoff."
***The Notre Dame Sports Information Department contributed to this report.