Notre Dame has blown out its first five opponents this season, but it should get a tougher test Friday night.
The 23rd-ranked Fighting Irish will play their first game away from home and face Northwestern for the first time in 25 years in the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
Notre Dame (5-0) is off to its best start since opening with seven straight victories in 2001-02, but the Irish have faced one team with a winning record, Long Beach State. They have won by an average of 20.2 points.
Notre Dame opened this event with home victories over Liberty on Sunday night and Kennesaw State on Tuesday night. As expected, All-American forward Luke Harangody led the way in both games.
Harangody scored a combined 61 in those victories and is among the nation’s leaders with 27.2 points per game.
The Big East preseason player of the year is also averaging 10.4 rebounds and became the fifth Irish player to reach 1,000 in his career with a season-high 15 in the 80-62 win over Kennesaw State.
“I hope our people appreciate what they’re seeing with this guy. He’s the best player in college basketball and to do what he does in a machinelike way every day, every night is really staggering,” coach Mike Brey said. “Sometimes even I go, ‘Yeah, 29 and 15. He did it again.’”
Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough have provided the Irish with outside scoring while also averaging in double figures.
Abromaitis, scoring 13.4 points per game, is 13 of 21 from 3-point range, and Hansbrough, a transfer from Mississippi State, has chipped in 11.8 points per game while connecting on 12 of 18 attempts from beyond the arc.
They’ll face a Wildcats team that’s held its four opponents, including then-No. 11 Butler, to 28.9 percent shooting from 3-point range and 59.3 points per game.
“We can’t play into what they’re trying to get us to do,” Harangody said. “They want to slow us down, and we just have to keep playing our game.”
Since its 67-54 defeat to Butler on Nov. 18, Northwestern (3-1) has recorded consecutive home victories over Tennessee State and Liberty.
Freshman swingman Drew Crawford had a career-high 22 points in Tuesday night’s 69-53 win against Liberty.
Junior guard Michael Thompson has led the Wildcats in scoring with 16.0 points per game, while sophomore forward John Shurna is contributing 12.0 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds a contest.
Northwestern snapped an 18-game skid to Top 25 teams with a 74-65 win over Minnesota on Jan. 18 and is 3-2 in those matchups since then.
The Irish earned a 79-61 victory in these schools’ previous meeting Nov. 29, 1984, to increase their series lead to 63-23-1.
The winner Friday will face Iowa State or St. Louis in Saturday night’s title game.