The Fighting Irish (8-1, 0-0 Big East) come off their first loss of the season 72-58 at the hands of No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats last night. They face Gonzaga (4-4, 0-0 WCC) who lost to Washington State 81-59 Wednesday night. The game will be played Saturday, December 11th at Purcell Pavillion at the Joyce Center at 8:30 PM ET. It will be broadcast on ESPN 2.
The Fighting Irish were led by G Ben Hansborough’s 21 points and F Scott Carleton’s 10 points and 8 rebounds in a losing effort against the Wildcats.
The team grabbed 30 rebounds (surprising for a team that averages over 40 a game for 6th in the nation) and also shot a paltry 26% from the three stripe down from 30% for the season. The Fighting Irish will have to improve in these areas to have a chance against the Zags on Saturday.
Also the team needs better effort from F Tim Abromowitz who only scored 4 points (down from his average of 14) against Kentucky and F Tyrone Nash, who gave a below average effort himself scoring in single digits.
The team totaled only 13 assists against Kentucky. More ball movement is required by Notre Dame who average 17 assists a game.
A 4-3 record for Gonzaga is one of the worse starts for the team in years. The team has two losses against nationally ranked No.5 Kansas State (81-64) and No.16 Illinois (73-61).
The top players for the Zags are G Steven Gray (18.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.4 RPG, 411% 3P%) and C Robert Sacre (11.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG). The players came up short against Washington State. Gray was held to 7 points, three rebounds, and 1/6 from three point land. Sacre only scored 6 points against a stifling Cougars defense. Back up C Sam Dower came off the bench to lead the team with 11 points and 5 rebounds.
The Zags need to protect the ball more. It committed 25 turnovers, up from their average of 16 on the season. C Robert Sacre committed 5 alone. Gonzaga also needs a stronger effort from behind the three point stripe where they were only 22% (down from their average of 36%) Wednesday night.
Gonzaga averages an impressive 84 points per game and gives up 68.0 PPG. This defensive intensity will be needed against the Irish.
I predict the Fighting Irish with their strong team play and rebounding (11th in the nation) will triumph over the Zags.
Notre Dame 72 Gonzaga 63