Notre Dame always has been one of the better scoring teams in the Big East Conference under coach Mike Brey.
The Irish are right there again in the scoring column averaging 75.7 points a game, 38th-best in the nation.
But as the Irish get ready to face 16th-ranked Connecticut on the road Saturday at 11 a.m. PT on ESPN, few could have imagined Notre Dame being this strong overall.
It’s not a fluke Notre Dame is ranked eighth. The Irish are the only Big East team to go unbeaten at home posting a 17-0 mark. The Irish have won 10 of their last 11 games, with an 8-3 ATS mark, and have a chance to win the Big East.
Notre Dame is 13-4 in the conference, one game behind league-leading Pittsburgh. The Irish have won 24 of their 29 games. This is their final regular season game. Pittsburgh closes its regular season Saturday at home against Villanova.
The Irish already have ensured themselves of a double bye in the Big East Conference Tournament, which begins Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Connecticut is in a much different situation.
The Huskies, 21-8 overall and 9-8 in the Big East, are in a three-way tie for ninth place in the conference with Marquette and Villanova. The top eight teams in the league draw a first-round bye into the conference tournament.
Jim Calhoun still is seeking his 300th Big East victory after his Huskies lost, 65-56, to West Virginia this past Wednesday night as five-point road ‘dogs. The combined 121 points dipped ‘under’ the 131-point total. It was the fifth time in their last six games the Huskies have gone ‘under’ the total.
Star guard Kemba Walker, second in the Big East in scoring, hit his season average of 22 points for the Huskies. But West Virginia helped force Walker to miss 15 of 23 shots from the floor.
Alex Oriakhi, the Huskies’ second-leading scorer at 9.9 points per game, scored four points in 36 minutes. Huskies center Charles Okwandu didn’t shoot a free throw for the seventh straight game. Roscoe Smith failed to score in 23 minutes. Smith is seven-for-27 shooting from the floor in his last six games.
It was Connecticut’s third defeat in its last four games. The Huskies could manage just two field goals against the Mountaineers during the final 10 minutes.
Notre Dame is the more rested team having last played this past Monday when it destroyed 19th-ranked Villanova, 93-72, as five-point home favorites. The combined 165 points flew ‘over’ the 140-point total.
Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough each scored 30 points to lead the Irish past the Wildcats. Abromaitis made nine 3-point shots, one off the school record set by Kyle McAlarney in 2008. Notre Dame connected on a school record 20 3-pointers, tying a Big East Conference mark. Abromaitis is averaging 26.6 points in his last three games.
Notre Dame edged Connecticut, 73-70, on Jan. 4 failing to cover as four-point home favorites. The combined 143 points went ‘over’ the 140-point total.
Hansbrough, the Irish’s leading scorer at 18.4 points per game, had 21 points against the Huskies while pulling down five rebounds and dishing off four assists. Abromaitis chipped in 19 points and seven rebounds.
Walker had his string of 11 straight games with 20 or more points snapped. The Irish held him to 19 points on eight-of-23 shooting from the field. The Irish also held Oriakhi scoreless.
Notre Dame beat Connecticut despite missing third-leading scorer Carleton Scott, who was out with a hamstring injury. Scott is averaging 11.3 points per contest.
The ‘over’ has cashed in six of Notre Dame’s past eight games.