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December 19, 2012

Preview: Kennesaw St. @ ND

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Head coach: Lewis Preston (2nd year at Kennesaw State) - 4-36 in 2nd year at Kennesaw State. Assistant coach at Coastal Carolina, Notre Dame (2000-06), Florida and Penn State.

You should know: That Kennesaw State head coach Lewis Preston served under Mike Brey for six seasons as an assistant coach…The Owls under Preston have struggled mightily, losing their final 19 games of the 2011-12 season. They picked up their first victory of the 2012-13 season in Game Two, thus ending a 20-game losing streak. But they've dropped seven in a row since then…Kennesaw State was tied at halftime of its most recent game against Charlotte, but lost, 66-52. On Dec. 1, Tennessee-Martin scored with two seconds remaining to complete a 12-2 run in a 65-63 victory over the Owls. Kennesaw State was out-rebounded, 43-22, in a Nov. 24 loss (65-51) to Chattanooga. The Owls trailed, 36-21, at halftime of a six-point loss to Towson in mid-November. Their only victory of the season - at South Carolina State (67-65 in overtime) - came on a basket by Markeith Cummings with less than a second remaining. The Owls trailed at Tennessee by 27 before losing by nine (76-67)…Notre Dame is 1-0 all-time against Kennesaw State. The Irish defeated the Owls, 80-62, at Purcell Pavilion on Nov. 24, 2009.

Top losses: Spencer Dixon (13.4 ppg.)

Top players: The Owls are led by the school's all-time leading scorer - 6-foot-6, 240-pound senior Markeith Cummings - who averages 18.4 points per game after scoring at a 15.4 clip a year ago. Cummings scored the game-winner at South Carolina State. He scored 21 of his 30 points against Radford in the second half. He tallied 22 points versus Georgia Southern and Eastern Kentucky.

Aaron Anderson is a 6-foot-7, 220-pound senior who averages 9.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He led the Atlantic Sun conference in rebounding a year ago with a 9.0 average. Anderson scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds at Tennessee. He also had 15 points and 10 rebounds at Tennessee-Martin.

Like Anderson, 6-foot-0 sophomore Delbert Love (9.9 ppg., 3.1 rpg., 3.8 apg.) averages just under double digits in scoring. He has 18 steals, but is shooting just .296 from the field.

Three freshman - 6-foot-1 Myles Hamilton, 6-foot-5 Jordan Montgomery and 5-foot-9 Yonel Brown - combine for another 15 points per game. Hamilton leads the team in steals with 20.

Andrew Osemhen, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound junior, makes an impact off the bench. He averages 3.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, and is shooting .560 from the field.

Brey on Lewis Preston: "He did a great job for us. Six years with us. Fabulous job coaching our big guys. He had deep relationships with guys like Harold Swanagan and Ryan Humphrey. I didn't have deep relationships with them because I didn't recruit those guys. So he really helped me bridge that gap while he was here. He went on to Florida and Penn State, and did a good job. He's trying to build a program down there, and we certainly welcome him back.

"Great demeanor, positive guy, good energy…Relationship-wise, he was so good with players. He knew how to draw the line. He wasn't their buddy, but he knew how to communicate with (the players) and they respected him.

"With his stops in his coaching career, he learned a lot. He was hungry to be a head coach. He was always on the road, grabbing me, grabbing other guys and trying to get information. I still stay in close touch with him and talk to him a lot. I look forward to seeing him."

Prister's take: This is a bad basketball team coming into Purcell Pavilion tonight. There's plenty of respect for head coach Lewis Preston, and many believe he has the coaching tools to turn the Owls into a respectable basketball team. But it takes talent, and right now, they're a poor shooting team that allowed 75.2 points per game in Preston's first year in Kennesaw, although they've held seven of their nine opponents to less than 70 points so far this season

In Markeith Cummings and Aaron Anderson, the Owls have a couple of veterans who could play in a higher-level conference. Cummings is a powerful, agile inside-outside player who can spot up and hit a jumper or put the ball on the floor and finish at the hoop. (Look for Pat Connaughton to draw the challenging defensive assignment.)

But the supporting cast is extremely young (four of the top eight in the rotation are freshmen). Kennesaw State ranks 335th nationally in rebounding, 318th in assists, 307th in scoring, and 287th in field-goal percentage.

They've made just 41 three-pointers on the season, they have no real shot blockers or players who can alter shots in the paint, and they have 31 more turnovers than assists. The Owls have shown the ability to make a run at their opponents, but it often times comes after a poor half of basketball. In fact, they seem to get overrun by the opposition in one of the two halves. That's a sign of inconsistent play/effort, which doesn't bode well against a Notre Dame team that rarely falters on its home court.

This will be Notre Dame's third game in five days while Kennesaw State has played just once in the last two-and-a-half weeks.

The Owls have competed with everyone they've played. Their largest margin of defeat is just 16 points. But Notre Dame's offensive efficiency, mixed with Kennesaw State's tendency to implode, should give the Irish the breathing room to coast to their 11th victory of the season without much trouble.

The only real question is if the Owls can reach 60 points. Probably not against the Irish.

Pointspread: NL
Prister's Prediction: Notre Dame 79, Kennesaw State 54
Prister's record: 10-1 straight up; 7-2 vs. points



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