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January 21, 2013

Cold night in the Bend, Purcell

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - With temperatures dipping into single digits outside and Notre Dame’s shooting just as frigid inside, the No. 24/23 Irish fell, 63-47, Monday night to Georgetown.

That’s back-to-back losses at Purcell Pavilion after winning 45-of-46, and three losses overall in four games after starting Big East play 2-0.

“That was a thorough beating,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey. “They really guarded us and flustered us with their defense. Anytime we tried to make a little run, they made a big shot.”

The Irish (15-4, 3-3) shot just 34.7 percent from the field (17-of-49) while the Hoyas (13-4, 3-3) shot 59.1 percent in the first half en route to building a 13-point halftime cushion. For the game, Georgetown made 53.3 percent of its shots.

“It’s a hard league,” Brey said. “We’re fortunate it only counted as one loss.”

Georgetown - owners of the nation’s No. 31 field goal percentage defense (.385) - limited Notre Dame to just 2-of-12 shooting from three-point range. Pat Connaughton, who scored a team-high 13 points, was the only Irish player to convert a three-point attempt.

Connaughton hit 2-of-3 while Eric Atkins (0-of-3), Scott Martin (0-of-2), Jerian Grant (0-of-3) and Cameron Biedscheid (0-of-5) were a combined 0-of-13.

“Our defensive effort was really good tonight,” said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “We were on the same page. We were one unit. For the most part, we made things difficult for them.”

Notre Dame also was a dismal 11-of-18 from the free-throw line.

The Irish whittled a 13-point halftime deficit down to three with 12:02 left in the game. But it would be another 7:27 before they would score again as an 18-0 Hoya run put Notre Dame away.

Georgetown went on an 11-0 run in the first half while Grant (13 points) and Tom Knight each missed a pair of free throws. Later in the half, after an 8-2 Irish run cut Georgetown’s advantage to four, Biedscheid missed back-to-back open looks from three-point range.

Georgetown then closed the first half with a 9-0 run to take a 34-21 halftime lead. The Irish failed to score over the final 5:24 of the first half.

The Irish shot just 30 percent from the field in the first half, including 1-of-5 from beyond the arc and 8-of-13 (61.5 percent) from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, the Hoyas made 13-of-22 from the field, including 3-of-7 from three-point range.

“They started off really hot, and when a team shoots like that, and when they play defense the way they do, you’ve got to match their defensive intensity, and we didn’t do that tonight,” said Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley, who scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

“We really need to turn up our defensive intensity,” Atkins said. “They bullied us. They did whatever they wanted, and if we’re going to play like that, we’re going to come in last in the league. We need to get tougher defensively.”

Otto Porter, Jr., paced the Hoyas with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with nine rebounds. D’Vaun Smith-Rivera came off the bench to score 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Moses Ayegba snagged 10 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

Notre Dame’s sub-50 point performance is the second game in the row that the Hoyas have put the clamp down on the Irish offense. Georgetown defeated Notre Dame last season in Washington, D.C., 59-41.

The 16-point loss was the second worst of the 13-year Brey era. Notre Dame lost, 77-60, to Villanova in March of 2009.

“The way we’ve looked lately, I’m glad we’re 3-3 (in the Big East),” Brey said. “We better just take 3-3 right now and try and figure out how to get a fourth league win.”

Brey said the Irish need to take a step back and lighten up on the expectations before playing in Tampa against South Florida Saturday.

“It has to be a little bit of ‘we’ve got nothing to lose’ with this team now,” Brey said. “I thought we played tight and we played with the weight of the world. Sometimes we have here because we’ve been so good and have been expected to win all the time.

“We need to be really loose with nothing to lose. We’re going to be off the radar now. Let’s see if we can kind of go for it with no pressure.”


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