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January 5, 2013

Preview: Seton Hall @ Notre Dame

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Head coach: Kevin Willard - 91-81 in 6th year as head coach: 46-32 in 3rd year at Seton Hall; 45-49 in three years at Iona. Served as an assistant coach to Rick Pitino for 10 seasons - four with the Boston Celtics and six at Louisville.

You should know: Notre Dame enters the game riding a 10-game winning streak while Seton Hall has strung together seven in a row. But the Irish haven’t played since Dec. 21 when they defeated Niagara while the Pirates opened Big East play Wednesday with a one-point win (73-72) at DePaul. The Pirates also won by one (60-59) in their previous game against Stony Brook…Seton Hall is 17th nationally in three-pointers made with 122 in 14 games (8.7 per game). The Pirates made 10-of-24 in Wednesday’s win at DePaul. They also made nine against Stony Brook, 10 vs. LIU Brooklyn, Longwood, LSU and Missouri-Kansas City, and 11 against North Carolina A&T…Seton Hall ranks 49th nationally in field-goal percentage (.467) while Notre Dame is 5th (.510)…The Pirates’ two losses have come on the road against LSU (72-67) and in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Connecticut against Washington in overtime (84-73). Both losses occurred in November…This is the 27th meeting between the two schools with the Irish holding an 18-8 lead in the series, including nine of the last 10. The Irish are 10-1 at home against Seton Hall, including six in a row…The Irish are 45-1 at home in their last 46 games at Purcell Pavilion, including 16 in a row.

Top losses: Jordan Theodore (16.1 ppg., 6.6 apg.), Herb Pope (15.1 ppg., 10.4 rpg.)

Top players: The Pirates are paced by 6-foot-6 junior Fuquan Edwin, who is averaging 17.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game after scoring at a 12.5 clip in 2011-12. He’s shooting a remarkable .517 from three-point range (30-of-58). He leads the squad in steals with 36. His lay-up with 6.9 seconds remaining lifted Seton Hall to a 73-72 victory at DePaul to open Big East play. Edwin scored 26 points vs. North Carolina A&T, 24 at Wake Forest, 25 vs. St. Peter’s and 27 against Washington. He had 23 points and 10 rebounds against Norfolk State.

Eugene Teague, a 6-foot-9, 290-pound transfer from Southern Illinois, is averaging 12.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He’s shooting .561 from the field with 49 offensive rebounds. But he’s a liability at the free-throw line (.565, 48-of-85). Teague scored 21 points against Rhode Island and had 11 rebounds vs. Norfolk State. He scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against St. Peter’s.

Aaron Cosby, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, is Seton Hall’s third leading scorer at 12.1. He’s the Pirates’ No. 2 three-point shooting threat (.385, 25-of-65) behind Edwin. Cosby scored 24 points in the victory over DePaul, 22 against North Carolina A&T, and 19 vs. Maine.

Brandon Mobley, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound sophomore, averages 10.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting .519 (14-of-27) from three-point range. Mobley leads the Pirates with 19 blocked shots and is shooting .781 from the free-throw line. He scored 16 points against LIU Brooklyn and 15 off the bench in the first half at LSU.

Brian Oliver is a 6-foot-6, 226-pound junior transfer from Georgia Tech. He’s averaging 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting .909 (10-of-11) from the line. Oliver scored all 20 of his points off the bench against Stony Brook in a one-point victory.

Kyle Smith, a 6-foot-4 senior, chips in with 5.8 points per game. He’s shooting .867 from the free-throw line (13-of-15). Patrik Auda, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound junior, suffered a broken foot in the fifth game of the season against Maine and is lost for the season.

Prister’s take: Notre Dame has always had good success against Seton Hall at Purcell Pavilion, but Willard definitely has Seton Hall trending upward after a 21-victory season in 2011-12. There’s no such thing as a “must win” in the conference opener. But with the Irish traveling to No. 14 Cincinnati Monday, where they have struggled to claim victory, it would behoove them to hold serve on their home court before making the trek to southwest Ohio.

This looks like a pretty stiff challenge for the Irish as they open Big East play following a 15-day layoff. The Pirates lost a lot with the departure of point guard Jordan Theodore and big man Herb Pope. But Kevin Willard has compensated with transfers Eugene Teague and Brian Oliver, who have provided about 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Fuquan Edwin is a tough match-up. Look for Mike Brey to try several defenders on him, particularly Pat Connaughton, who has shown a penchant for slowing down top scorers so far this season. Eugene Teague, a 6-foot-9, 290-pound transfer from Southern Illinois, will lean on Irish big men Jack Cooley and Garrick Sherman. But Teague has been plagued by foul and turnovers problems at times this year, and Notre Dame’s frontcourt tandem should give him trouble.

Notre Dame will have to match Seton Hall’s long-range firepower. The Irish can pretty much count on 20-to-25 three-point attempts and 7-to-10 conversions by the Pirates from beyond the arc. So guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant need to pick up where they left off prior to the lengthy break. Scott Martin and Connaughton also are capable of matching the Pirates’ long-distance attack. Freshman Cameron Biedscheid (.391 from three-point range) makes his Big East debut.

Seton Hall has played three games since the Irish last tipped off, so look for a feeling out period early on. But few programs thrive on home cooking quite like Notre Dame. This “must win” is placed in the left-hand column, but it will be a tussle.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 9 ˝
Prister’s Prediction: Notre Dame 74, Seton Hall 68
Prister’s record: 12-1 straight up; 7-3 vs. points


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