South Bend, IN – The 22nd-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish close out a five-game homestand on Saturday, when they play host to the Brown Bears at the Purcell Pavilion.
Mike Brey's Irish have just one loss on the season, an overtime affair with Saint Joseph's (79-70). Since then, the team has reeled off five straight victories and enters this contest off its most impressive, a 64-50 dismantling of defending national champion Kentucky.
The Bears have struggled with consistency in the early going and sit one game under .500 on the season at 3-4. Brown has dropped three of its last four games coming in, including a 63-50 setback at New Hampshire last weekend.
Notre Dame has won both prior meetings with Brown, with the last meeting occurring in 2007 (87-54 Irish win).
Sporting a -2.1 scoring margin is not a recipe for success and that is exactly what the Bears are facing right now. Offensively, the team has really struggled with its shooting, connecting on just over 40 percent from the floor, resulting in a mere 64.4 ppg. The team does possess some scoring depth though, as three of the five starters are averaging double figures, led by Matt Sullivan's 15.4 ppg. Sean McGonagill is a close second at 14.9 ppg and the pair have combined for 31 of the team's 54 3-pointers to date. Rafael Maia gives the team an interior presence, adding 12.6 ppg while pacing the squad in rebounding (8.4 rpg). Freshman center Cedric Kuakumensah (7.3 ppg) is a intimidating force in the middle, averaging 7.4 rpg, while leading the Ivy League in blocked shots (2.1 per contest).
Brown couldn't find its rhythm offensively against New Hampshire, shooting .322 from the floor, a number hampered by a mere .190 effort from behind the arc (4-of-21). Sullivan led the way with 18 points, McGonagill added 14, while Kuakumensah recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Irish held the defending champs to a mere 40.4 percent shooting and jumped all over Kentucky in the first half by draining 55.6 percent from the floor and taking an 11-point lead into intermission. Eric Atkins led four players in double figures in the win with 16 points. Jack Cooley added a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, including six offensive boards. Jerian Grant also posted 13 points and dished out six assists, while Cameron Biedscheid came off the bench to tally 10 points in the win.
As evidenced by the victory over the Wildcats, the Irish possess capable scorers. However, it is the defensive effort on the regular basis that leads Notre Dame to victory, as the team is allowing just 58.5 ppg, on well under 40 percent shooting (.376). The Irish are also enjoying a +6.9 rebounding margin. Cooley is a big reason for that, averaging a double-double with team-highs of 14.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Grant (13.0 ppg, 4.9 apg) and Atkins (11.0 ppg, 6.4 apg) can both score and distribute, while Garrick Sherman (10.1 ppg) represents a nice offensive boost off the bench.