Another team from another conference with another starting lineup, but the same result for the Notre Dame basketball team on Saturday as the Irish dropped their seventh straight game, 89-63 to UCLA.
After losing six straight Big East games, Notre Dame headed west to play the Pac-10-leading Bruins and despite the eastern time zone-friendly 1 p.m. start, it was the Irish who looked asleep at the start of the game.
UCLA (19-4) opened the game with a 14-2 run that included a highlight reel alley-oop from Jrue Holiday to Josh Shipp, who threw it down with one hand. The Irish (12-10) never got within seven for the rest of the game.
During this difficult stretch, the one player that Notre Dame has been able to count on has been Luke Harangody, but even he could get nothing going against UCLA. Harangody's streaks of double-doubles (11) and double-digit scoring games (50) came to an end on Saturday as he finished with just five points and only one rebound. Harangody was just 2-of-12 from the field.
"It was a tough day for Luke Harangody. He could never get into much of a rhythm, but I think you have to give UCLA a lot of credit for that," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey told the Notre Dame Radio Network after the game. "They doubled him every time and he had a hard time getting it out of there."
"He was flat-out fabulous," Brey said. "I hope we got him restarted because I can't afford not to start the game with him."
By the time the Irish take the floor for their next chance to snap the losing streak on Thursday against Louisville, it will have been over a month since Notre Dame's last victory, a 88-79 home win against Seton Hall on Jan. 10.
Brey needs to find a way to get his team to forget about what has happened over the last five weeks and get ready for the final stretch of Big East play. While the might of the conference is most responsible for Notre Dame's season being lost, that same strength is the only hope the Irish have of finding it again.
The Irish have eight Big East games left, including games against the nation's current No. 1, No. 8 and 16 teams. So there are still big wins left on the schedule that could turn things around, however unlikely that may seem after being blown out by the Bruins.
"We've not had the best of rhythms here lately, but you;ve got to go back and get to practice and see who you want to play and who you want to start, I'm not sure about that," Brey said. "We need our fans on Thursday, they've been fabulous. It'll be good to be home, but we know we play another good team on Thursday too.
"You don't have time to hang your head."
Brey used another starting lineup against the Bruins, his fourth in the last five games, bringing point guard Jackson off the bench. Although the move did seem to motivate Jackson, it was not nearly enough to make the difference in this game.
McAlarney and Jackson did their best to keep the Irish in the game in the first half. McAlarney made all four of his field goal attempts in the first 20 minutes, including three three-pointers, to finish the half with 11 points and Jackson came off the bench to score eight.
But Harangody did not score until he made a free throw more than eight minutes into the game and finished the half just 2-of-9 shooting for five points without hauling in a rebound.
It looked like Jackson might inject a little life into the Irish when he checked in three minutes into the game. Jackson immediately scored and was fouled. He missed his free throw, but the rebound kicked out to McAlarney, who drilled a very deep three-pointer that made the score 14-7.
But the Bruins scored six straight points to take a 20-7 lead six minutes in before extending that lead to 26-10 midway through the half.
McAlarney knocked down a couple of threes to cut into the UCLA advantage, but with just over a minute to play in the half the Bruins took a 20-point lead, 46-26. Notre Dame scored the last four points of the half and headed into the locker room down 46-30.
Aboya led UCLA with 11 points and five rebounds in the first half while Collison and Dragovich chipped in with seven apiece.
UCLA never let up defensively and even with the Irish's ability to score from three-point range, the Bruins refused to give them any hope. The Bruins only increased their lead in the second half, going up by as many as 32 points, and were never threatened.