Final exams are over and the Notre Dame student body has gone home for the holidays, but the Irish basketball team still has a couple of tests before it can head home for Christmas.
Notre Dame (7-2) entertains Delaware State (2-12) at 7 p.m. tonight at the Joyce Center. Tonight's game against the Hornets will be followed by a home date on Monday evening with Savannah State before the Irish players leave campus for break.
Notre Dame is currently ranked 12th in the Associated Press Poll and 14th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll, but have a great chance to move up in both with a strong showing on Saturday.
Delaware State, of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, has played an extremely difficult non-conference schedule and has suffered losses at Ohio State, Kentucky and Maryland along with Big East defeats to West Virginia, Connecticut and Rutgers.
Notre Dame head coach Brey said that he respects what Delaware State is doing with its non-conference schedule and believes that it will help them down the road.
"I understand what they're trying to do here in the non-conference," said Brey. "That's a grueling thing to do, they've done a pretty good job of that and the one thing they've got is really tough kids. I know that from talking to people in their league, they've got tough kids and probably going through this toughens them up."
The Hornets opened the season with a victory over Division II Wilmington and won its MEAC opener against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 4, but have lost every other game. Delaware State is 0-9 on the road this season.
The Hornets average 55.9 points per game while allowing 69.6. The Irish are putting up 82.9 points a contest while allowing 68.3. Notre Dame has won all five of its home games this season, running its home win streak to 41 games, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind BYU's 53 straight home victories.
Brey played Delaware State four times when he was the head coach at the University of Delaware and won all four contests. Playing the Hornets has Brey thinking back to his years at Delaware.
"I mentioned to my wife last night, ‘The guys from Kent County are coming to town,'" Brey said. "We used to go down and play them and had a good little series going with them. Certainly, it gets you thinking about the first eight (seasons)."
Brey has known Delaware State head coach Greg Jackson since he was the coach at Division II North Carolina Central and is impressed with what he has done.
"We're honored to have them. They have been part of the NCAA Tournament very recently," said Brey. I have the utmost respect for their coach. I knew him when he was in Durham, when I was in Durham."
But old ties had nothing to do with the Hornets showing up on Notre Dame's schedule.
"(Assistant coach) Sean (Kearney) does our scheduling. In the spring, you're kind of scrambling around and looking and connected with one of their assistants," said Brey. "I think they talked on the road at one of these weekend AAU tournaments and it materialized from there and then the date really fit."
The Hornets have three players averaging double-digits in points, senior guard Donald Johnson (11.0), junior forward Francisco Sandidge (10.6) and senior forward Arturo Dubois (10.5). Dubois and Sandidge also lead Delaware State in rebounds with 8.9 and 7.5 respectively.
Dubois also leads Delaware State on the defensive end and has twice been named MEAC Defensive Player of the Week. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Dubois will try to use his body on the inside to limit Notre Dame's Luke Harangody.
The Hornets generally go seven deep with Sandidge, Dubois and Johnson joined in the starting lineup by junior guard Marcus Neal and sophomore guard Trevor Welcher. Junior guard Fred Bouie and junior forward Kris Douse are the only other two Delaware State players that average more than 10 minutes per game, averaging 20.9 and 17.2 respectively.
Brey has said that he hopes to find minutes for some reserves in the two independent games before conference play and get the chance to work on some different defenses. Delaware State has made 68 of 220 three-pointers (30.9%) this season, which should allow the Irish to work in some zone.
Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney will become the 49th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark with 20 points tonight.