Preview: West Virginia

10th-seeded Notre Dame plays 7th-seeded West Virginia at 7 p.m. tonight in the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Tonight's game, along with the rest of the Big East Tournament games, can be seen on ESPN.

One down, but no one is certain how many more to go.

What is certain though is that it will take Notre Dame (19-13) at least one more victory in the Big East Tournament to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

In fact, the Irish probably need at least two more wins to get a NCAA bid, but they will not get a chance to pick up another win if they don't get by West Virginia in the second round at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

The seventh-seeded Mountaineers (21-10, 10-8) earned a first-round bye so tonight will be their first game of the tournament.

Notre Dame head coach Brey was hoping to conserve his team's energy by playing the same zone defense he did in the regular season finale with St. John's against the Scarlet Knights.

Notre Dame played mostly zone, but Brey knew there would be no sense in saving legs for a second-round game that his team would not be playing in.

"I was hoping we could stay in zone a little longer tonight like we did Friday night against St. John's," he said. "The only way we were going to win the game was by manning up and playing man-to-man."

While West Virginia will be rested, at least one Notre Dame star should have plenty of energy for tonight's game.

Luke Harangody played just 25 minutes in Notre Dame's 61-50 victory of Rutgers in the first round on Tuesday. Harangody missed 14 of his 17 field goal attempts and scored just seven points before head coach Mike Brey benched him with seven minutes to play.

The Irish were able to get by with Tory Jackson's 12 points, Kyle McAlarney's 11 and 10 from Ryan Ayers, but don't expect the Mountaineers to shoot 33.3% from the field like Rutgers did.

The Mountaineers are averaging 72.4 points per game while shooting 43.1% from the floor. Junior forward Da'Sean Blair leads West Virginia with 17.1 points per game while senior guard Alex Ruoff is scoring 15.7 per. Freshman forward Devin Ebanks is scoring 9.8 points while pulling down 7.4 rebounds per contest.

West Virginia beat the Irish in Morgantown 79-68 in the teams' only meeting of the season on Feb. 18. The Irish led for the majority of the first half and were even up 10 at one point, but West Virginia closed the half on a 10-2 run to grab a 42-40 advantage at the break.

West Virginia maintained control for the rest of the game and even though the Irish were able to cut the deficit to four with less than five minutes to play, the Mountaineers would not allow Notre Dame any closer.

Ruoff led West Virginia with 24 points and seemed to make a big shot whenever West Virginia needed one. Blair added 19 and Ebanks 11 while freshman forward Kevin Jones scored 12 points and pulled down 10 boards.

Harangody led Notre Dame with 26 points and 13 rebounds, but like with many of their losses, the Irish had trouble finding a third scorer. In fact, they had trouble finding a second source of points as McAlarney was held to 12.

West Virginia will be playing its first game since losing a hard-fought home game 62-59 to Louisville, who earned the tourney's top seed with the win. Ebanks led the Mountaineers with 16 points and 10 rebounds, but Butler was held to just 10 while Ruoff was shut out in 22 minutes of action.

The Irish cannot expect to have that kind of success against West Virginia, but they cannot allow Ruoff and Butler to dominate the way they did in the teams' last matchup. And while Notre Dame has to believe that Ruoff will be better on Wednesday, the Mountaineers have to be scared of an even-more-motivated Harangody.

Harangody has played some of his best games when he feels like he has let his team down. Harangody returned from missing two games with pneumonia early in the season to score 25 points and pull down 16 rebounds against Ohio State. He put up 31 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Louisville, one game after scoring just five at UCLA.

The key for the Irish will be to find offense from places other than the big man inside. If Notre Dame can do that and somehow contain West Virginia's top two weapons, the Irish will have a great chance to get another chance at a NCAA bid.


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