Rutgers (12-13, 4-8) vs. #23/25 Notre Dame (17-8, 9-3)
Feb. 15, 2012 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center (9,149)
Notre Dame, Ind.
Adam Amin (play-by-play)
LaPhonso Ellis (analyst)
Broadcast on UND.com
Jack Nolan (play-by-play) Jordan Cornette (analyst)
RED-HOT IRISH PLAY HOST TO RUTGERS ON WEDNESDAY
#23/25 Notre Dame (17-8, 9-3) will carry a season-best six-game win streak into Wednesday night's BIG EAST clash against Rutgers (12-13, 4-8). Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (ET) inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The Fighting Irish currently are in third place in the BIG EAST standings.
This is the second of two regular-season meetings between the Irish and Scarlet Knights. Rutgers topped Notre Dame, 65-58, on Jan. 16 in Piscataway, N.J. That was Notre Dame's last loss before its current six-game win streak.
Wednesday's game will be broadcast by ESPNU/ESPN3 with Adam Amin (play-by-play) and LaPhonso Ellis (analyst) calling the action.
The Fighting Irish Digital Media radio crew of Jack Nolan (play-by-play) and Jordan Cornette (analyst) will call the action on radio (affiliate listings on Pg. 6) and their broadcast can also be heard on UND.com.
NOTRE DAME-RUTGERS SERIES HISTORY
Wednesday will be the 31st meeting all-time between Notre Dame and Rutgers. The Irish lead the series 17-13. Notre Dame has won six of the last eight meetings in the series.
The Scarlet Knights are 2-10 all-time at Notre Dame. Rutgers has dropped its last seven games inside Purcell Pavilion, including a 76-69 Irish victory last season (Feb. 6, 2011). The last Rutgers victory at Notre Dame was a 72-70 decision during the 1998-99 season.
The Irish are 14-10 against the Scarlet Knights since both teams joined the BIG EAST in 1995.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey is 11-6 all-time against Rutgers.
Notre Dame's current six-game BIG EAST win streak is the third longest in program history. The record is eight games by the 2000-01 team during Mike Brey's first campaign along the Irish sidelines. Last season's squad put together a seven-game win streak en route to a 14-4 final regular-season conference record.
Three of Notre Dame's victories during the current six-game win streak have come on the road. The Irish also have defeated three ranked teams during the streak.
The Irish are allowing just 55.7 points per game during the streak. Notre Dame limited those six teams (Syracuse, Seton Hall, Connecticut, Marquette, West Virginia, DePaul) to a combined 38.2% (131-343) shooting from the field, including 26.3% (25-95) from three-point range.
FIGHTING IRISH CRACK THE POLLS
With Notre Dame entering both the Associated Press (#23) and ESPN/USA Today (#25) polls for the first time this season, it marks the sixth straight season that the Irish have been ranked.
This is the latest into a season that an Irish team has been ranked for the first time since the 1986-87 campaign. That year, Notre Dame entered the polls on March 2 after (coincidentally) winning six straight games.
IRISH GET OFFENSIVE
Notre Dame's 84 points against DePaul on Saturday were the most for the Irish in a BIG EAST game this season and the most overall since scoring 106 points versus Sacred Heart on Dec. 19.
The Irish shot 59.6% (31-52) from the field against the Blue Demons. That percentage is the highest for Notre Dame in BIG EAST play this season.
COOLEY NAMED BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE WEEK
On Monday, junior forward Jack Cooley was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week after registering back-to-back double-doubles for Notre Dame in wins last week against West Virginia and DePaul. He averaged 21.5 points and 13.0 rebounds to earn his first career player-of-the-week honor. Cooley had previously been named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on four occasions this season. In the two contests last week, he shot 81.0 percent from the field (17-21).
Cooley became the first Notre Dame player to score 20-plus points in back-to-back BIG EAST games since Ben Hansbrough did so in five straight games last season.
Junior forward Jack Cooley posted his second straight double-double with a career-high tying 22 points and 14 rebounds on Saturday against DePaul. He notched 21 points and 11 boards last Wednesday at West Virginia. It is the third time this season that he has registered back-to-back double-doubles (all three occasions have come in BIG EAST play). Cooley has a team-best eight double-doubles this season (six in BIG EAST play).
BIG EAST BIG MAN
Junior forward Jack Cooley's 22 points on Saturday against DePaul were the most that he's ever tallied in a BIG EAST contest. He also matched a career-best total with four blocked shots.
He is first among all BIG EAST players with a .611 (102-167) shooting percentage.
Cooley is averaging 13.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in BIG EAST play. The rebound average ranks second in the conference. He is averaging a league-best 4.5 offensive rebounds per game in BIG EAST play.
He ranks fifth in the BIG EAST with an 8.8 rpg. average this season (all games). That includes 3.8 offensive boards per game, which ranks second in the league. He also has a team-high 38 blocked shots, which ranks sixth among all BIG EAST players.
PLAYING WELL IN PURCELL
The Fighting Irish are 97-7 in their last 104 games played at home. That .933 home winning percentage over the course of the last six seasons ranks third nationally.
The Irish are 32-1 in their last 33 home games.
IRISH ENJOY HOME COOKING IN CONFERENCE PLAY
Notre Dame has gone 44-6 (.880) at home in BIG EAST play over the last six seasons. That is the best home winning percentage for any BIG EAST school in league play over that time period.
BIG EAST TRENDS
Notre Dame is 27-7 (.794) over its last 34 BIG EAST regular-season contests. The Irish stood 6-8 through 14 regular-season games during the 2009-10 campaign and then won four straight to finish 10-8. Last season, Notre Dame posted a 14-4 regular-season mark in the league.
The Irish are 20-4 (.833) over their last 24 BIG EAST regular-season games.
ATKINS ON THE ATTACK
Sophomore point guard Eric Atkins is second among all Irish players with a 12.9 ppg. average this season. He averaged 5.8 ppg. last season as a freshman.
He has scored 20 or more points in a game three times this season, including a career-high 27 points versus Mississippi Valley State in the season opener.
Atkins has led Notre Dame in scoring a team-high eight times this season.
He is shooting 39.6% (36-91) from three-point range this season. That places him 10th among all BIG EAST players.
GRANT HAS ALL-AROUND GAME
Sophomore guard Jerian Grant, who is in his first season playing with the Irish after sitting out all of last season, has team-high totals in points (326), assists (121), steals (32) and minutes played (880). His 40 made three-pointers also are a team-high total.
He ranks fifth nationally - and first in the BIG EAST - with a 3.10 assist-to-turnover ratio. His 5.3 assist-per-game average in BIG EAST play ranks fifth in the league.
Grant tallied a career-high 22 points on Saturday against DePaul. That was his third 20-plus point effort of the season. He has scored in double-figures a team-best 20 times this season, including in each of the past six games, which matches a career-best streak.
Grant is shooting a team-best 80.3% (94-117) from the free throw line this season. That mark ranks ninth among all BIG EAST players. He was a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe against DePaul.
Atkins has played 40-plus minutes nine times this season, including six times in league play. He ranks fourth in the BIG EAST in minutes played (league games only), while Martin is seventh and Grant is eighth.
Martin has played all 40 minutes in each of the past four games.
The Fighting Irish defense ranks first in the BIG EAST by surrendering just 59.2 points per game in league play.
The Irish boast the top three-point defense (25.4%) in BIG EAST play.
In league play, Notre Dame opponents are shooting just 40.2% (272-676) from the field. That percentage ranks sixth in the conference.
West Virginia's 16 first-half points last Wednesday tied the fewest ever allowed by Notre Dame against a BIG EAST opponent in the first half of play.
Notre Dame's current six-game win streak has produced some significant achievements for the Fighting Irish program.
The streak began with a 67-58 home win over #1 Syracuse. It was Notre Dame's 10th victory all-time against a top-ranked opponent and the first since 1987.
The Irish then went on the road and defeated Seton Hall, 55-42. The victory snapped Seton Hall's 12-game home win streak. The Pirates had been 10-0 at home this season. Seton Hall's 42 points were the fewest Notre Dame has ever allowed against a BIG EAST opponent.
The 50-48 win at Connecticut marked the first time in program history that Notre Dame has won consecutive games at Connecticut. It also was just the second win ever at Hartford's XL Center for the Irish. The 48 points were the fewest ever for Connecticut against Notre Dame.
The victory over Marquette snapped its seven-game win streak and it also marked Notre Dame's first two-game win streak over the Golden Eagles since they joined the BIG EAST in 2005.
Last Wednesday's win at West Virginia halted Notre Dame's three-game losing streak in Morgantown. West Virginia's 51 points were the fewest the Mountaineers have ever scored in 38 meetings with the Irish.
BEATING THE BEST
The Irish have defeated five AP top-25 teams this season. That is tied for the most nationally along with Michigan State, Missouri and Ohio State. Notre Dame has topped #1 Syracuse (67-58), #11 Louisville (67-65 in 2ot), #15 Marquette (76-59), #22 Pittsburgh (72-59) and #24 Connecticut (50-48).
Notre Dame is 4-4 against teams currently in the RPI top 25.
CLOSE GAMES ... NO PROBLEM
Notre Dame's four-point win over West Virginia last Wednesday night marked the third straight for the Irish this season in games decided by five or less points. Overall, Coach Mike Brey's squad is 3-1 this season in games decided by that margin.
In fact, dating back to the 2010-11 campaign, Notre Dame is 9-1 in its last 10 games decided by five or fewer points. Last year's squad was a perfect 6-0 in those contests.
SHUFFLING THE LINEUP
Notre Dame has used nine different starting lineups this season (out of 25 games played). Jerian Grant and Scott Martin both have a team-high 24 starts this season (game-by-game starting lineups listed on page 8).
With his 23-point, 11-rebound effort against Marquette (Feb. 4), Pat Connaughton became the first Notre Dame true freshman to record a double-double since Luke Harangody's 20-point, 11-rebound performance on March 8, 2007 versus Syracuse in the BIG EAST tournament.
Connaughton's 11 rebounds were a career-high total, while he was one off his career-best points mark. It was his second 20-plus point effort of the season.
His 23 points and five made three-pointers both were the most for a Notre Dame player in a BIG EAST game this season.
Freshman guard/forward Pat Connaughton also is a pitcher on the Fighting Irish baseball team. Connaughton is the 66th Notre Dame student-athlete to compete in both basketball and baseball and the first to do so since Tom Hansen during the 1973-74 academic year.
Baseball America ranks Connaughton as the 29th best freshman in the country. He is rated as the #4 Major League Baseball draft prospect in the BIG EAST according to Perfect Game, which ranks him as a 1-3 round draft pick in 2014.
DRAINING FROM DEEP
The Fighting Irish are shooting 39.3% (107-272) from three-point range at home and 25.2% (55-218) in road/neutral contests this season.
Notre Dame has made 10 or more three-pointers in a game four times this season. The Irish are 4-0 in those contests.
PROTECTING THE ROCK
Notre Dame ranks 12th nationally - and second among all BIG EAST teams - with a 1.38 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.
The Fighting Irish rank fifth nationally - and first in the BIG EAST - in fewest turnovers per game (10.4). Notre Dame committed only five turnovers in last Wednesday's victory at West Virginia. That is a season-low total for the Irish in a BIG EAST game.
The Irish have had fewer than 10 turnovers in a game nine times this season (three times in BIG EAST play). Notre Dame had a season-low four turnovers against Sacred Heart (Dec. 19).
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Seven different Irish players have posted a team-high point total in a game this season.
Sophomore point guard Eric Atkins has led Notre Dame in scoring a team-best eight times this season, while junior forward Jack Cooley has led the Irish seven times.
Cooley has scored 20-plus points a team-best four times this season.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
The Fighting Irish have a +4.4 rebound margin in their 17 wins, while they have been out-rebounded by an 8.7 margin in their eight setbacks.
Notre Dame is 11-0 this season when out-rebounding its opponent.
NOTRE DAME KNOCKS OFF #1 AGAIN
The 67-58 win over Syracuse on Jan. 21 was Notre Dame's 10th all-time against a top-ranked team. Notre Dame is 10-23 all-time against No. 1 ranked teams. Eight of the victories have come against the top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll, which is the ranking the NCAA uses to recognize wins over No. 1 teams. The eight wins are tied for fourth nationally.
It was Notre Dame's first win over a No. 1 since topping North Carolina, 60-58, on Feb. 1, 1987 inside Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame has won an NCAA record six straight home games against No. 1 teams. The Irish are 7-3 at home against top-ranked teams.
It was the third time an un-ranked Irish squad defeated a No. 1 team in 18 tries.
Notre Dame never trailed in the win over Syracuse. The largest Irish lead was 18 points (35-17 with 1:28 left in the first half).