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Notre Dame-Kennesaw State Preview

NOTRE DAME VS. KENNESAW STATE
Where: Purcell Pavilion (9,149) in South Bend.
Records & Rankings: No. 22 Notre Dame (10-1); Kennesaw State (1-8).
Time/TV: 7 p.m. EST on ESPN3.
Last Meeting: This will be the second meeting all time between the two schools. Notre Dame beat the Owls, 80-62, on Nov. 24, 2009, inside Purcell Pavilion in a contest that was part of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.

Notre Dame Notes
The Irish, riding an eight-game winning streak, take on the Owls for their third game in five nights. It’s the first time in Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey’s career he’ll face one his former assistants. Kennesaw State head coach Lewis Preston worked under Brey at Notre Dame from 2000-06.

Notre Dame has won 26 straight nonconference home games and the Irish are 67-1 in their last 68 non-league home contests. The Fighting Irish are 108-7 in their last 115 home games for a .939 winning percentage, which ranks second nationally behind Kansas (.965). The Irish are 43-1 (.977) in their last 44 home games. Notre Dame has a current 14-game home win streak.

The Fighting Irish are allowing only 59.5 points per game this season, which is the best mark for the program through 11 games since 2004-05 when it allowed 57 points per outing. Opponents are shooting just 37.7 percent (244-648) from the floor this season.

Probable starters:

Jack Cooley The senior forward is tied for second nationally with seven double-doubles this year. He has reached double-figures in points in six straight games, which matches a career-best streak from last winter. Cooley is averaging team highs in points (14.5) and rebounds (10.8). The rebound mark ranks 10th nationally. He has scored in double-figures in 10 of the 11 games this season.

Eric Atkins The junior point guard is tied for fifth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.3) and is tied for eighth nationally in assists per game (7.0). He is scoring 10.9 points per game through the first 11 contests this season.

Jerian Grant The junior guard is averaging 11.9 points and 5.2 assists per game.

Pat Connaughton The sophomore guard scored a season-high 18 points in Monday’s win over IPFW. His previous season-high was 16 in Saturday’s victory over Purdue. Connaughton was 7-for-9 from the floor against IPFW and also had six rebounds and five assists.

Scott Martin The sixth-year senior enters tonight’s contest with 994 career points (9.2 ppg). Martin has tallied 722 points in his three-plus seasons at Notre Dame. He scored 272 points during his freshman season at Purdue.

Off The Bench
Senior center Garrick Sherman is producing 10 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game. Freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid has come off the bench to score 8.4 points per game this season.

Kennesaw State Overview
The Owls are scoring 59.8 points per game and shooting around 40 percent from the field in Preston’s second year at the helm. Markeith Cummings, a 6-foot-6 senior guard, is putting up 18.4 points per outing to lead Kennesaw State. No other player is averaging double-figures.

Outlook
The Fighting Irish didn’t play up to par Monday against IPFW and still cruised to an easy victory. If Notre Dame’s backcourt bounces back from a somewhat sloppy performance, the Owls are in jeopardy of getting completely trounced. It will be another good opportunity for Brey to see reserves such as freshman forward Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett get some playing time.

Morgan’s prediction: Notre Dame 83, Kennesaw State 55.

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