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Notre Dame-Providence Preview

NOTRE DAME VS. PROVIDENCE
Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center (12,410), at Providence, R.I.
Rankings & Records: No. 21 Notre Dame (20-5, 8-4 Big East), Providence (13-11, 5-7).
Time/TV: Saturday at noon EST on BEN/ESPN3.
Radio: UND.com, Sirius/XM channel 85.
Last Meeting: This will be the 26th meeting between the two programs, with Notre Dame leading the all-time series with a 16-9 record. The Fighting Irish have won the last nine straight against the Friars, including the lone meeting last season, 75-69, at Purcell Pavilion on March 2, 2012.

Irish head coach Mike Brey is fourth on the all-tim wins list in Big East history with a 141-93 record in 13 seasons.

Notre Dame Notes
Head coach Mike Brey’s squad has won five of its last six and is on a two-game win streak after back-to-back home overtime victories over Louisville and DePaul. Syracuse, Georgetown and Marquette are tied at the top of the Big East Conference standings with 8-3 records. Louisville and Notre Dame are tied for fourth with the regular season winding down.

The Irish boast the third-highest scoring average in the league (73.6 ppg), the highest field goal percentage (.483) and 3-point field goal percentage (.386). Notre Dame has dropped to 12th in the conference in both turnover margin (-0.56) and offensive rebounding (10.8)

Probable starters:

Jack CooleyThe senior forward leads the conference in rebounds per game (11.2) on top of his 14.7 points per outing. He has posted five straight double-doubles and is third nationally with 17.

Eric AtkinsThe junior point guard has the highest 3-point percentage in the conference (.452) and his 6.1 assists per league game ranks third. He’s averaging 12.9 points per game in Big East play.

Jerian GrantThe junior guard is averaging a team-best 14.5 points and 6.2 assists per Big East game and is averaging 18.3 over the last three contests.

Pat ConnaughtonThe sophomore guard is putting up nine points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Tom KnightThe senior forward is averaging 6.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game after six consecutive starts in place of the injured Scott Martin.

Off The Bench
The Irish now have a reliable trio of forwards in reserve. Senior center Garrick Sherman has worked his way back into the rotation and has contributed 7.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game this season. Freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid is averaging 7.7 points and is shooting 40.6 percent from the field and freshman power forward Zach Auguste is up to nearly 10 minutes per game (3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds).

Providence Overview
The Friars are on a three-game win streak (by a combined 17 points) after knocking off Villanova, Cincinnati and South Florida.

Junior guard Bryce Cotton leads the league in scoring (20.5 ppg) and 3-point baskets made (70). Junior Kadeem Batts is shooting 49.6 percent from the field and was named Big East Player of the Week on Feb. 11 following his 25-point, nine-rebound performance in the Friars’ 54-50 win over No. 17 Cincinnati on Feb. 6.

Outlook
Winning on the road in the Big East is never easy, but the Irish have picked up a ton of confidence in the last week with grinding overtime wins at home. The concern now is how much gas is left in Notre Dame’s tank after playing a total of six extra frames in the last week.

The Irish have been sloppy with the ball in the first half recently and have struggled to capitalize at the foul line. Notre Dame committed 15 turnovers in the game and was just 4-for-7 from the stripe in the second half against DePaul, and 15-for-25 from the foul line combined in the five overtime periods against Louisville.

Shot quality needs to improve down the stretch for Notre Dame, which has gotten stuck late in the shot clock way out on the perimeter and has settled for low-percentage shots on frantic attempts to drive in traffic.

Morgan’s prediction: Notre Dame 65, Providence 60.

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