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Notre Dame-Providence Preview

NOTRE DAME VS. PROVIDENCE
Where: Purcell Pavilion (9,149), at Notre Dame
Records & Rankings: No. 20/19 Notre Dame (20-10, 12-5 Big East); Providence (15-15, 4-13).
Time/TV: 7 p.m. EST on the Big East Network/ESPN3
Last Meeting: The Irish won the lone meeting last season, a 94-93 victory on Feb. 23, 2011 at Providence.
Line:Notre Dame favored by 11.

Notre Dame Notes
Notre Dame is coming off a 59-41 loss Monday at Georgetown which tied the fewest points scored by the Irish in head coach Mike Brey’s 12-year tenure with the program. Notre Dame lost two nights earlier to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. The Irish went a combined 7-for-48 from the 3-point line in the two defeats.

Notre Dame is tied with Georgetown for third in the Big East standings. The Irish already have clinched a bye into the second round of the Big East Championship next week in New York City. A win on Friday would secure Notre Dame a double-bye and the No. 3 seed for the league tournament.

Notre Dame's 12 Big East victories are the third-most in program history. The Irish won 14 league contests in 2007-08 (14-4) and 2010-11 (14-4). The Fighting Irish have clinched a winning record in league play for the third straight season and for the 10th time under Brey. This marks the third straight season that the Irish have won at least 10 conference games and the eighth time overall since Brey arrived.

Former Irish basketball great and U.S. Olympian Adrian Dantley, the 1976 national college basketball player of the year and a member of the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame, will become the fourth inductee into the Notre Dame Basketball Ring of Honor on Friday.

Jack Cooley The junior forward has produced a double-double in five of the last seven games. He has a team-best 11 double-doubles this season. Cooley is averaging 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in Big East play. Over the past seven games, he is averaging 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds, despite only one bucket and no rebounds Monday at Georgetown.

Eric Atkins The sophomore point guard ranks second among all Irish players with a 12.5 points-per-game average this season. 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. He is shooting 36.9 percent (41-111) from 3-point range this season.

Jerian Grant The redshirt sophomore has team-high totals in points (377), assists (147), steals (37) and minutes played (1,069). His 49 made three-pointers also are a team-high total. Grant has four 20-plus point efforts of this season (two in league play). Grant ranks 10th nationally and second in the Big East with a 2.83 assist-to-turnover ratio. His 5.3 assist-per-game average in Big East play ranks seventh in the league. He is shooting a team-best 81.3 percent (104-128) from the free throw line this season.

Pat Connaughton The freshman is capable of piling up points in a hurry, evidenced by his 7-for-12 effort from the 3-point line on Feb. 18 at Villanova. He’s averaging seven points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Scott Martin The fifth-year senior might be appearing in his final game at Purcell Pavilion, pending a decision on his application filed with the NCAA for a sixth season. He’s averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Providence Overview
The Friars are coming off back-to-back league victories for the first time this season. They topped DePaul, 73-71, on Feb. 25 on the road and beat UConn, 72-70, on Tuesday.

The Friars are 1-5 this season versus ranked squads. In the team's most recent game versus a ranked opponent, the Friars were defeated by No. 10/9 Georgetown,
63-53, on Feb. 18. The Friars defeated No. 14/15 Louisville, 90-59, on January 10 at Providence. The 31-point win marked the team's largest win ever over a ranked opponent.

Guards Gerard Coleman, Bryce Cotton and Vincent Council have combined for just over 44 points per game this year, with forward LaDontae Henton adding 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest.

Three of the Friars' last six losses have been by three points or less. On January 29, the team suffered an 81-78 loss at USF. On February 5, the Friars were defeated in overtime at home by West Virginia, 87-84. On February 7, PC was defeated at Villanova, 74-72.

Outlook
The Fighting Irish defense ranks third in the Big East by surrendering just 58.6 points per game in league play. The Irish boast the top three-point defense (25.9 percent) in Big East play. The Friars lead the league in 3-point shooting accuracy, hitting 36.9 percent of the attempts from behind the arc. But Providence has taken the least number of three point attempts (406) in the league and also made the least number of threes (150).

Notre Dame ranks third in the Big East with a .715 free throw percentage, a critical tool if this game remains close. The Irish rank sixth nationally and second in the league with a 1.46 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. They also are third nationally and first in the conference in fewest turnovers per game (10.0).

Morgan’s prediction: Notre Dame 67, Providence 55

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