Preview: Rutgers

Notre Dame (15-11, 6-8) hosts Rutgers (10-17, 1-13) at 7 p.m. tonight at the Joyce Center. The Irish will be looking for their fourth win in five games after a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season. The game can be seen on ESPNU.

Rutgers comes to South Bend with a 10-17 overall record and a 1-13 mark in the Big East, but Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey expects to get the Scarlet Knights' best shot.

"It doesn't matter who we're playing on Wednesday, we're expecting a dog fight," said Brey. "We just played South Florida last time we were here and that was a dog fight. We had fight like heck to win. I expect the same thing and our guys will expect the same thing."

Brey is counting on his players realizing that after winning three of four games, they have repositioned themselves to finish strong after a seven-game losing streak.

"We've won three of four after a tough January and you want to ride some of that momentum," said Brey. "We know what's on the line and how we finish can really determine a lot of things. So it's a huge game for us."

Notre Dame sits at 15-11 overall, 6-8 in the league and is still very much involved in the NCAA Tournament discussion.

"We're smart enough to know that anybody can beat us if we're not ready to play," said Brey. "We know what's on the line and by winning [at Providence] we've put ourselves in a position to make it an interesting finish.

"I don't think motivation has been a problem for this group all year and certainly not now."

Despite their record, the Scarlet Knights could pose some problems for the Irish, according to Brey.

"Rutgers presents some issues, no matter what their record is. They can bother us speed, transition, they can get up and down the floor and long, athletic guys," said Brey.

Freshman guard Mike Rosario is the only Rutgers player averaging double-figures, with 17.0 points a game, but according to Brey there are other players who can hurt the Irish.

"Mike's had a great year, I'm very impressed with him," said Brey. "But the speed on their perimeter and their ability to go off the dribble and their ability to get in transition, that's something that we're going to have to do a good job with and that has been a reoccurring theme for us to try to achieve.

"The speed and quickness in this league, can we get back in transition, make them a halfcourt offense and then can we keep people from driving and keep it out of the paint? That's going to be a heck of a challenge against, not only Mike, but the rest of that perimeter."

Senior guard Anthony Farmer is averaging 9.3 points while freshman forward Gregory Echenique is scoring 8.8 points and pulling down 8.2 rebounds a night.

"That perimeter can put their head down and get to the basket," said Brey. "Then they've got some size that can get up and get second shots, which is another issue that we always have to be concerned about, keeping people off the offensive boards."

Rutgers is only scoring 65.0 points per game, but are allowing just 67.2 on the defensive end. Still, the Scarlet Knights have been beaten by an average of 12 points in their 13 league losses.

Rutgers' only Big East victory of the season came in a Jan. 31 contest against DePaul, who is winless in the conference. That win doubles as the Scarlet Knights' only victory since a Dec. 23 game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

If Rutgers is going to get in the win column again before the Big East Tournament it will have to come against either the Irish, Providence, Syracuse or South Florida.

Notre Dame cannot afford to look past Rutgers to Saturday's game at Connecticut because at this point in the season the Irish need to grab every victory they can. Top Stories