Texas to meet Notre Dame in early showdown

The 2008 Maui Invitational field features three of the top ten ranked teams in the country and on Tuesday at 6pm on ESPN, two of them will meet at the Lahaina Civic Center. The #6 Texas Longhorns and the #8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be the first meeting of the college basketball season featuring top 10 teams.

The #6 Texas Longhorns have yet to be tested this season winning three games by more than 24 points per game. Tuesday, the Longhorns face their first true test of the season against a 3-0 Notre Dame team that won 25 games a year ago and beat Indiana 88-50 Monday afternoon.

The Longhorns have made a living the first three games of the season with their full court, man-to-man ball pressure. Tuesday against an experienced Fighting Irish team with a terrific college backcourt featuring sharpshooter Kyle McAlarney and steady point guard Torrey Jackson, the Longhorn's ability to pressure without giving up straight line drives, transition opportunities and transition three-pointers will be severely tested.

For Texas, the Longhorns have struggled on offense all season. Against an experienced Notre Dame team, the Longhorns will have a quickness advantage on the interior and must attack off the dribble as Gary Johnson has the last two games.

The game will feature two of the best three-point shooters in McAlarney and Texas' A.J. Abrams. The shooter with a hot hand will likely go a long way to which team prevails on Tuesday.

Along with the sharpshooting of McAlarney, Notre Dame features the talented scoring forward Luke Harangody. The 6-8, 255-pound forward can score with his back to basket using an array of moves going left or right as well as the ability to face the basket and knock mid-range jumpers on a consistent basis. Entering Tuesday, the junior is averaging 23.7 points and 12 rebounds per game.

On Monday, Connor Atchley got in early foul trouble and had to sit the final 14 minutes of the first half. Against Notre Dame, Atchley must be on the floor as he is the best team defender and keeps the floor spaced on the offensive end. Atchley has the ability to test the Notre Dame big men laterally and make them chase and play defense on the perimeter.

Tip-off is set for 6pm central time and will be televised nationally on ESPN.

A Look at the Coaches

Texas head coach Rick Barnes registered his 250th win at Texas Monday against only 93 losses. The wins and losses include 16-10 in the NCAA Tournament in ten seasons.

Barnes has a career record of 452-227.

Mike Brey coaches the Fighting Irish. Brey has career record of 269-138, including 170-86 at Notre Dame.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shoots 48.1% overall, 40.5% from the three-point line and 57.4% from the foul line.

Notre Dame connects on 47.9% from the field, 37.5% from three and 63.5% from the free throw line.

The Longhorns have a rebounding margin of +7.0, while Notre Dame checks in at +11.0.

Texas turns the ball over 16.7 times per game to just 12 by Notre Dame.

The Starters

G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (3.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists)

G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (17.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists)

F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists)

F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (11.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks)

C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds)

Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (10.3 points, 7.7 rebounds), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists), 6-1 sophomore Dogus Balbay (1.0 assist, 1.0 steal) and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.7 points, 3.0 rebounds).

G Tory Jackson 5-11 Jr. (14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists)

G Kyle McAlarney 6-0 Sr. (9.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists)

F Ryan Ayers 6-7 Sr. (9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds)

F Luke Harangody 6-8 Jr. (23.7 points, 12.0 rebounds)

F Zach Hillesland 6-9 Sr. (6.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists)

Key reserves include 6-11 senior Luke Zeller (11.3 points, 6.0 rebounds), 6-8 sophomore Tyrone Nash (4.3 rebounds) and 6-3 junior Jonathan Peoples (2.0 points, 2.7 rebounds).

Keys to the Game

Texas must be their best in transition defense if the Longhorns are to remain in full court ball pressure against Notre Dame. The Irish have two guards that can beat ball pressure with the dribble as well as multiple players in McAlarney and Ayers who will knock down three-pointers in transition.

Point guard Tory Jackson drives the ball with a low inside shoulder and uses a hard dribble or two to create space for a mid-range jumper going left. Jackson is a very good rebounding guard, so Texas must improve and block out in that area Tuesday.

Harangody likes to spin baseline on right block and loves to shoot the fade away going right middle off the left block. He has an array of pump fakes, so the Texas defenders must be patient and stay on their feet. The junior can also catch and shoot in the mid-range as well as the occasional three.

Harangody does have a low release, so Texas can force a release change if they react to the junior getting into a jump shot.

McAlarney loves to drive baseline, but will make the occasional middle drive if the crease is there. He will come off of down screens and staggered screens and catch and shoot in one motion. He does not worry about being squared up, so the Longhorns must be ready to react to quick fire, off balance catch and shoot out to 25-feet.

Off the bench, Zeller has developed into a catch and shoot three-point assassin. Zeller likes to shoot the ball from the left wing and Notre Dame will float him and allow him to play on the perimeter. Zeller will chase offensive rebound from the perimeter, so he must be accounted for at all times.

Tyrone Nash is an effective offensive rebounder off the bench. He's a lefty and will look to tip the ball multiple times to keep the offensive rebound alive.

Defensively, Notre Dame plays a sagging man and will show some 2-3 and 1-2-2 zone at times.

The Irish big men don't move well laterally on defense, so Gary Johnson and Connor Atchley will have driving opportunities if they catch on the perimeter in triple threat and make a quality shot fake.

Notre Dame is not a shot blocking team, so the Longhorns must attack the rim with strength and confidence.

If Notre Dame plays the sagging man, the Longhorns will get any shot they desire from Abrams and James. James must have much better shot selection Tuesday and has to put the ball on the floor and look to kick to the open man instead of forcing tough, off balance shots which are not his strength.

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