Fire Away

The freewheeling Providence Friars bring an up-tempo three-point attack (sound familiar?) to the Purcell Pavilion for tonight's Big East opener.

If you're a fan of bone-shaking screens, punishing interior defense, and possessions in which both teams fight and scratch for every inch...well, you might want to look elsewhere to satisfy your late-December Basketball Jones.

But if you crave points aplenty and teams that hit the floor running while attacking from long-range for 40 minutes, then South Bend and the new Purcell Pavilion is calling your name as the Fighting Irish entertain the Providence Friars tonight at 9:00 PM in the teams' Big East opener.

At a Glance

Notre Dame: 11-2
  • Losses: Northwestern (Chicago Classic) and Loyola Marymount
  • Best Win: UCLA (5-7)
  • Loss for the Selection Committee's Consideration: home vs. LMU (7-7)

Providence: 8-4
  • Losses: at Alabama; BC; at Rhode Island; Iona
  • Best win: At George Washington (9-2)
  • Loss for the Selection Committee's Consideration: Home vs. Iona (8-5)

Meet the Friars

Second-year head man Keno Davis has transformed the Friars into an up-tempo unit, one that attacks with and ultimately relies on an abundance of three-point shots to prevail.

Providence lost five of its top eight contributors to graduation but returned a pair of veteran Georgia high school products in the backcourt: point guard Sharaud Curry and off-guard Marshon Brooks. Curry sets the pace with a 2/1 assist-to-turnover ratio while netting 13.8 points per game in non-conference play. Brooks appeared to be the Friars top dog entering the season, but currently ranks second on the squad with 15.4 points per contest. The junior hits at a 48 percent clip from the field and has knocked down an impressive 21 of his 48 3-point attempts.

Redshirt-sophomore forward Jamine Peterson leads the team in scoring (17.8) and rebounding (10.9) hitting at a 45 percent clip. The 6'6" 230-pounder has scored in double figures in 11 of 12 contests this season including 10 consecutive and has notched seven double-doubles including a 22-rebound effort. His 179 field goal attempts rank fifth in the Big East and he leads the conference with just over 5 offensive rebounds per game. Peterson will hunt his shot from anywhere, hitting 8 of his last 22 attempts from beyond the arc over the last four contests.

Drawing the matchup with Harangody will likely be 6'8" 230-pound redshirt-freshman center Bilal Dixon (9 points and 6 boards per game) while veteran senior Brian McKenzie (nearly 8 points and 5 rebounds per game) rounds out the usual starting five. Freshman guard and point guard of the future Vincent Council earns significant time off the bench.

Overall, five key backups are first-time players: the aforementioned Council as well as freshmen Johnnie Lacy and Duke Mondy, and junior college transfers Kyle Wright and Russ Permenter.

The Last Time

The Irish buried Providence with a barrage of three-pointers early, downing the Friars at "The Dunk" 103-84. Graduated seniors Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney combined for 53 points, hitting a combined 11-22 from beyond the arc. Current senior tri-captain Jonathan Peoples played one of the best games of his Irish career, scoring 14 points and dishing out 9 assists in 28 minutes off the bench.

Stats and Streaks

  • Notre Dame will complete 1/6 of its conference season over the next six days as the squad embarks on its first road trip of the season with Saturday's matchup at Connecticut and a Tuesday game in Tampa vs. South Florida.
  • The Irish have won six straight in the series and hold a 13-9 edge overall, including last season's 103-84 victory at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The Friars are 4-7 all-time in South Bend, last winning in February of 2004, 73-59.
  • ND is 8-6 in Big East openers and 5-4 under coach Brey.
  • Notre Dame has won 62 of its last 66 home games and has a 24-3 mark over the last three seasons of conference play in South Bend.
  • The Irish were installed as a 7.5-point favorite for tonight's contest – the only matchup of the regular season between the teams.

Record Watch

Senior forward Luke Harangody has a minimum of 19 games remaining (with at least a 20th likely if the Irish can qualify for the NCAA or NIT) in an Irish uniform. The All American will likely need to perform at a high level in each of those contests to exit the school as the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder. With 2,127 points and 1,078 boards, Harangody needs 434 points and 241 rebounds to pass Austin Carr (1968-71) and Tom Hawkins (1956-59) respectively.

Harangody recorded his 56th career double-double in the team's final non-conference game to overtake former Irish star LaPhonso Ellis (1988-92) in first place on the program's career list. As well, the Schererville senior is the only player in program history to exceed 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.

Currently in his 10th season, Mike Brey enters tonight's contest with a 199-103 record at Notre Dame. With six conference victories this season, Brey will move into sixth place among Big East coaches in career wins. His 92 league triumphs in nine seasons currently rank behind former Villanova coaches Steve Lappas (97 wins in nine seasons) and Rollie Massimino (123 wins in 19 seasons) for seventh all-time.

Prediction

The Friars will attempt to outshoot and outscore the Irish…an opposing method of attack rarely successful in South Bend. Look for one of the highest scoring conference games of the season at the new Purcell Pavilion with the Irish pulling away early in the second half and holding off the Friars, 87-80.

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