Irish to try luck in Big East road clash with Friars

Hoping to stay within striking distance of the top spot in the Big East Conference standings, the 21st-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish challenge the Providence Friars at the Dunkin' Donuts Center on Saturday afternoon.

Notre Dame enters with a 20-5 overall record, which includes an 8-3 mark in conference. The team is currently a game off the pace set by first-place Georgetown (9-3), and the Irish are hoping to extend their winning streak to three games today. UND is 3-2 in true road bouts this season, and the team is coming off an 82-78 overtime triumph over visiting DePaul on Wednesday. That game came only four days after the team survived a five-overtime affair against Louisville.

Providence is two games over .500 on the year (13-11), but two games below the mark in Big East bouts (5-7). The Friars are riding a three-game win streak at the moment, with their latest victory coming in a 76-66 final at South Florida on Wednesday night. PC has won more than twice as many games than it's lost at home (9-4), and the club's last hosting gig resulted in a stunning 54-50 triumph over Cincinnati on Feb. 6.

Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Providence, 16-9, and the Irish have won the last nine meetings.

Jerian Grant scored 21 points and handed out nine assists to lead Notre Dame in scoring for the third straight game, as the Irish slipped past DePaul in overtime earlier this week. Jack Cooley logged a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Eric Atkins tallied 13 points and also dished out nine helpers for a UND squad that shot 50 percent from the field and went 21-of-28 at the free-throw line. The Irish controlled the glass (44-25), but the Blue Demons made good on half of their 16 3-point attempts, and committed only seven turnovers to Notre Dame's 15. Cooley (14.7 ppg, league-best 11.2 rpg) has had a tremendous year, while Grant (13.3 ppg, 5.7 apg) and Atkins (11.8 ppg, 6.1 apg) have proven themselves to be extremely valuable as well. The team as a whole generates 73.6 ppg while yielding 64.5 ppg, and it owns a +4.4 rebounding margin while converting 48.3 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 38.6 percent showing from beyond the arc.

For the second straight game, and the third time in the last four outings, Kadeem Batts led the Friars in scoring, netting 24 points in the team's 10- point win at South Florida. LaDontae Henton added 19 points and eight rebounds, Bryce Cotton tallied 13 points and six assists, and Vincent Council finished with 11 points and eight helpers. As a team, Providence made good on 51 percent of its total shots and converted 21-of-25 free-throw attempts. A scant six turnovers certainly helped their cause. Despite Batts taking the lead of late, he still ranks second on the team in scoring with 14.7 ppg, well off the pace set by Cotton, who leads the Big East with his 20.5 ppg. Batts and the team's only other double-digit scorer at the moment, Henton (13.5 ppg), combine for 15 rpg. The Friars produce 68.0 ppg while permitting 63.9 ppg, and they own positive differentials in both rebounding (+3.1) and turnovers (+0.5). They also lead the league in 3-point percentage defense (.288).