West Virginia-Notre Dame Preview


It's clear that Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is enjoying his team's play during this eight-game win streak.

Brey's No. 20 Fighting Irish can make it 12 straight at home against West Virginia heading into Wednesday night's Big East matchup.

Notre Dame (19-8, 11-3) is seeking nine straight wins for the first time since a 10-game run Nov. 27, 2007-Jan. 5, 2008. Brey has punctuated the victories by chest bumping walk-on guard Patrick Crowley in the locker room afterward.

"I'm being loose the rest of the way," Brey said. "If I can't be loose here, I'll go be loose somewhere else at this point in my career."

The Fighting Irish came back from 20 points down in Saturday's 74-70 overtime win at Villanova. After Brey and Crowley exchanged the chest bump, the coach said, "I thought I was going to get a night off of chest bumping at halftime."

A season that looked doomed when top scorer Tim Abromaitis was lost to a torn right ACL after two games has instead seen the Irish move into a second-place tie with No. 10 Marquette.

"We've always had really coachable guys here," Brey said. "I don't know if I've had more fun with a group and that's saying a lot after last year's group (when Notre Dame went 27-7 and finished second in the Big East)."

One of the Fighting Irish's victories during this run was 55-51 at West Virginia (17-10, 7-7) on Feb. 8. Jack Cooley had 21 points and 12 rebounds to start a four-game stretch in which he's averaging 20.8 and 14.3 while shooting 73.3 percent.

"He is very efficient," Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said. "I think he's a lot like (Kevin Jones). A lot of what he gets is off the offensive glass."

Jones continues to lead the Big East with 20.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. He's played every minute of the Mountaineers' last seven games and had 16 points and 13 boards in last Thursday's 66-48 win at Pittsburgh.

West Virginia won for the second time in seven games, and Huggins believes an NCAA tournament berth is not yet secure.

"I'm not sure that if we are 9-9 (in the Big East) if we are not OK," Huggins said. "I would feel a whole lot better with 10. I would feel a whole lot better with 12, actually."

Although Notre Dame has successfully slowed down the tempo at times, top scorers Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant have also excelled at selectively pushing the pace to get easy baskets.

"We talked about rebounding and running, getting out and going, especially in our building," Brey said. "And again West Virginia is a bigger team where if you can get it, like (against) Villanova, you feel you can beat some guys down the court."

The Mountaineers do not expect to try to press the Irish too much as they attempt to win in South Bend for the first time since a 57-55 victory Jan. 17, 1987.

"I don't think you can really speed 'em up," Huggins said. "I think that the people that have tried to speed them up haven't been very successful."