Notre Dame heads west to challenge No. 19 Gonzaga

The 19th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs welcome the conference affair.

Notre Dame recently suffered back-to-back losses to Missouri and Georgia on a neutral court to fall to 4-2 overall, but the team certainly bounced back strong with an 84-59 victory over Bryant on Sunday. It is fair to say that the Irish have yet to beat a quality opponent, but a win over Gonzaga would certainly qualify. Obviously, many challenges await when the Big East COnference portion of the schedule rolls around.

Gonzaga has taken care of business so far this season, winning its first four games to build some momentum. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs had no trouble with Western Michigan, cruising to a 78-58 victory on a neutral court. Mark Few's team has dominated the West Coast Conference in recent memory and is expected to do the same this season.

The Fighting Irish edged the Zags last season in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

Notre Dame was dealt a crippling blow when co-captain Tim Abromaitis suffered a torn ACL in his right knee at practice last Friday. He will miss the remainder of the 2011-12 campaign. Abromaitis had played in two games and was averaging 14.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg. He missed Notre Dame's first four games due to misunderstanding of a technicality in an NCAA rule governing seasons of competition that dated back to the 2008-09 campaign. In his absence, added pressure falls on the likes of Eric Atkins (15.4 ppg), Jerian Grant (13.4 ppg) and Scott Martin (11.7 ppg). Through seven games, Notre Dame is posting 72.1 ppg while allowing 62.4 ppg. In the 25-point romp over Bryant, Atkins netted 18 points, yet another impressive effort by the sophomore. The Irish started five guards in that affair, but the lack of quality size may very well come back to bite the team at some point.

There are three double-digit scorers on the Gonzaga roster, and Robert Sacre is tops with his 17.0 ppg on 53.3 percent shooting from the field. Sacre is ripping down 9.0 rpg as well, and he brings quite a presence to the frontcourt. Kevin Pangos checks in with 15.8 ppg on 59.1 percent accuracy from three-point range, and Elias Harris provides 12.0 ppg and 7.3 rpg. The Bulldogs are scoring 79.2 ppg while allowing 65.5 ppg to opponents. Against Western Michigan last time out, Gonzaga shot 52.6 percent from the floor and finished with 18 assists against nine turnovers. The Bulldogs also forced 22 giveaways and got 15 points from both Sacre and Sam Dower. Harris and David Stockton added 10 points each.