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December 8, 2012

Preview: Brown @ Notre Dame

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Head coach: Mike Martin (1st year at Brown) - 3-4 in 1st season at Brown. A four-year starter and co-captain of the 2003-04 Bears. Spent one season at his alma mater as an assistant, and then worked the past six seasons at Penn.

You should know: That Athlon Sports picked Brown to finish sixth in the eight-team Ivy League…The Bears have lost three of their last four after opening with a 58-49 victory at Binghamton, an 86-71 loss at Central Connecticut, and a 70-68 victory at Maine. Brown lost to Bryant University, 68-61, and then fell 76-72 in overtime to St. Francis (N.Y.) after trailing by 18. The Bears knocked off Sacred Heart, 69-56, but then fell at New Hampshire last Saturday, 63-50…Brown has more turnovers (102) than assists (97). The Bears also have an impressive 91 offensive rebounds in seven games…At age 30, Brown head coach Mike Martin is the fourth-youngest head coach in Division I.

Top losses: Stephen Albrecht (10.2 ppg.; injured), Andrew McCarthy (9.9 ppg., 7.3 rpg.), Jean Harris (6.8 ppg.), Dockery Walker (5.3 ppg., 4.6 rpg.).

Top players: Six-foot-five senior Matt Sullivan leads the Bears in scoring at 15.7 points per game. He's converted a team-leading 16 three-pointers and is shooting 80 percent (24-of-30) from the free-throw line. He scored 18 points in a victory at Binghamton, and losses at New Hampshire and at Central Connecticut.

Sean McGonagill, a 6-foot-1 junior, logs the most minutes at 39.1. He also fills the stat sheet with 14.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He's second to Sullivan in three-pointers with 15, but is shooting just .263 from beyond the arc. McGonagill is shooting .826 (19-of-23) from the free-throw line. He had 23 points and six turnovers against St. Francis (N.Y.). He was 2-of-14 from three-point range in the victory over Sacred Heart. McGonagill led the Ivy League in assists last season with 5.4 per game.

Rafael Maia, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound sophomore from Brazil, was declared ineligible last season by the NCAA. He's given the Bears a boost by averaging 12.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Maia already has 30 offensive rebounds and is shooting .547 (35-of-64) from the field. He's really struggling, however, from the free-throw line where he is converting just .459 (17-of-37). Maia had 19 points and 15 rebounds against Sacred Heart and 21 points and eight rebounds at Maine.

Tucker Halpern, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound senior who missed the 2011-12 season with mononucleosis, also has been a productive addition to the lineup. He's averaging 9.0 points and has shot .419 from beyond the arc (13-of-31). He hit 5-of-8 three-pointers and scored 17 points in the victory over Sacred Heart. Halpern has come off the bench for the Bears.

Cedric Kuakumensah is a 6-foot-8, 245-pound freshman who has made an immediate impact for Brown. He's averaging 7.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in just 23.4 minutes per game. His 19 offensive rebounds are second on the team to Maia's 30, and his 15 blocked shots pace the squad. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds against Bryant University and 10 points and 10 rebounds versus New Hampshire.

Longji Yiljep, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Nigeria, has started six of Brown's seven games, but is playing just 17.7 minutes and averaging 2.4 points per contest. Tyler Ponticelli (20.9 mpg., 2.3 ppg., 4.1 rpg.), a 6-foot-8, 220-pound senior, and Joe Sharkey (2.9 ppg.), a 6-foot-2 sophomore, also come off the bench.

The Bears miss the services of guard Stephen Albrecht, a 6-foot-2 senior, who averaged 10.2 points per game in 2011-12. Albrecht has been sidelined with a back injury.

Inside the Irish: When Notre Dame held Kentucky to 50 points on Nov. 29, it was the fewest points surrendered by the Irish versus a Top 10 team since a 52-47 victory over No. 5 Maryland on Jan. 28, 1984. Kentucky was held 35 points below its scoring average of 85.2…Notre Dame is 2-0 all-time versus Brown. The Irish won, 87-54, on Dec. 29, 2007 and 80-53 on Jan. 30, 1979…Notre Dame is allowing just 58.5 points per game, which is the best mark for the first eight games of the season since the 57.1 allowed in 2004-05. The Irish also are limiting opponents to .376 shooting from the field and .310 from three-point range…Notre Dame is 17th nationally in field-goal percentage at .489. Jack Cooley is tied for 24th nationally in field-goal percentage at .603. Garrick Sherman is converting .615 of his shots (32-of-52), but does not have enough shots to qualify among the nation's leaders…Jerian Grant has scored in double figures in six out of eight games. In his last two games, he's had 22 points and 10 assists against Chicago State and 13 points and six assists versus Kentucky…Scott Martin has scored 962 points in his career - 690 at Notre Dame and 272 at Purdue…Eric Atkins is 12th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio at a phenomenal 51-12, including 21-1 in the last three games…Notre Dame is fifth nationally in assists at 18.3 per game. They're also sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (146-to-94).

Prister's take: The Bears are still trying to find their identity and some chemistry under first-year coach and former Brown standout Mike Martin. Martin -- just 30-years old -- has some interesting pieces with which to work with Matt Sullivan ascending to the leading-scorer role and Sean McGonagill running the show. The addition of big men Rafael Maia and Tucker Halpern adds a new dynamic to the team, as does bruising freshman Cedric Kuakumensah, who is off to a great start. The guard depth has been hurt by senior Stephen Albrecht's lingering back injury.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, hasn't played since last Thursday when the Irish knocked off then-No. 8 Kentucky in convincing fashion. Perhaps the Irish will have a bit of rust to shake off, although Brown hasn't played in a week either.

The hunch here is that Brown gives Notre Dame a bit of a run tonight. They have enough size and bulk up front to match up pretty well for an Ivy League team taking on a Top 25 team on its home court. If Sullivan and McGonagill can put up numbers comparable to those posted in the first seven games - and Brown does a better job of protecting the basketball -- the Bears hang around until the gas finally runs out.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 24
Prister's Prediction: Notre Dame 77, Brown 55
Prister's record: 7-1 straight up; 5-1 vs. points


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