Seton Hall Preview

Another solid performance from Luke Harangody resulted in another Notre Dame victory over DePaul Saturday, ending the Irish two-game home stand. Riding a three-game winning streak that has seen them triple their total of Big East wins, the Irish finally cracked the ESPN/USA Today poll at the No. 21 spot.

Now, Notre Dame must travel to Newark, NJ to face the potent offensive attack of the Seton Hall Pirates, which leads the Big East in scoring with 80.9 points per contest.

The Irish (16-4, 6-2) will need to maintain their balanced scoring attack that has helped them rise to second in the conference Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Prudential Center as the Pirates (15-7, 5-4) are looking to bounce back from a 12-point loss to the Georgetown Hoyas. The contest, available through ESPN's Full Court package, will give the Irish another chance to silence doubters with regards to their ability to win against Big East rivals in hostile environments on the road. Not counting the two losses during the Maui Invitational, Notre Dame's only road win came against No. 18 Villanova January 26th.

Irish head coach Mike Brey knows that it isn't going to be easy by any stretch of the word. "We have ten league games left," he said. "There is a lot of basketball to be played. I like that we are still getting better, we are developing, still improving. We cannot get ahead of ourselves. Lets get down and ready. We have to go out to [Seton Hall] New Jersey where they can score 90."

Notre Dame prevailed against DePaul behind Luke Harangody's eleventh double-double of the year. The sophomore forward notched 29 points and picked up 14 rebounds. Many of his points came off of relentless second-chance opportunities, as evidenced by his 10 offensive boards. His teammates won't shy away from the fact that Harangody is the heart and soul of the squad. According to them, all one has to do to pick up on his intensity is to look into his eyes during a game — that and the ruthless method through which he attacks the opposing team's frontcourt.

Harangody's teammate and classmate, Tory Jackson has also found his rhythm as of late, producing several impressive performances against DePaul and Providence. The sophomore point guard has displayed the ability to turn up the Irish tempo when deemed necessary through his opportunistic direction of transition offense. His team-leading 120 assists on the season is a testament to his aptitude to find an open teammate. One aspect to keep an eye out for when watching Jackson play against Seton Hall is the manner in which he ventures in the paint, boxing out defenders and grabbing rebounds over opponents despite his 5'11" frame.

Additionally, watch for Kyle McAlarney to break out of recent shaky shooting performances during the past two home games. The junior guard went 5-for-17 against DePaul, but managed 17 points, while the Friars limited him to a 3-for-11 night, good for eight points. If McAlarney can successfully move without the ball and create separation from his defender, it could be a long day for potential Pirate defenders.

Notre Dame will have its hands full with Seton Hall's senior guard-forward Brian Laing who is averaging 19. 5 points per game, as well as 7.3 rebounds per contest. After a suspect game against South Florida on January 17th, Laing has lit up the scoreboard tallying five straight games of at least 22 points.

Seton Hall is by nature a team of guards. Of their leading scorers, the top five all pick up significant minutes in the backcourt. Sophomore Eugene Harvey follows Laing as the team's second leading scorer with 15.7 points per game.

It will be interesting to see how coach Brey schemes to halt the effective guard play the Pirates have exhibited throughout the season. Throughout the season, Brey has put the responsibility of the opponent's most prolific guard on Tory Jackson. However, at 6'5", Laing may be too tall for the sophomore to take care of. Look for Zach Hillesland to have the duty of keeping the Pirate's leading scorer in check.

Although the Pirates lead the conference in scoring offense, their defense is a completely different story. Seton Hall ranks last in the Big East in scoring defense, giving up 77.3 points per game. If the Pirates cannot raise the intensity of their defense, Notre Dame could very well be riding a four-game winning streak headed into a much-anticipated match up against No. 16 Marquette Saturday at the Joyce Center.


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