In case you forgot (how the hell could you forget! The Irish play basketball too, ya know), Notre Dame squares off with No. 16 Kentucky tonight at 9:30 on ESPN.
The Wildcats come in reeling, having lost two of their past three games, including a 75-73 loss to North Carolina on Saturday, and are in need of a win. Kentucky is led by six-feet, eight inch freshman sensation Terrence Jones. Jones is leading the team in points (19.0 ppg), rebounds (9.6 rpg), and blocks (2.6 bpg). If that doesn’t impress you, he also shoot 37% from Bird Land (Yes, I mean on 3’s. Larry Bird, get it?)
The undefeated Irish are in for a serious test, their toughest to date this season, against the uber-talented Wildcats in a virtual road game at Freedom Hall in Louisville.
Without further ado, here are the three keys for the Irish tonight:
Contain Terrence Jones:
Wait, after all that praise I just heaped on him, you didn’t think I’d include him in the keys? Think again. Offensively and defensively, it starts with Jones for the Wildcats. Notre Dame has great team size, but cannot match the athleticism of Jones. I expect Tyrone Nash to be assigned to Jones and its crucial that Nash stays out of early foul trouble. I know Notre Dame plays a zone defense, but I think Brey will have Nash shadow Jones wherever he goes. He’s that important to Kentucky. If Nash gets in foul trouble, not only will we lose our best antidote to Jones defensively, we won’t have someone who can attack Jones on the other end of the floor. Nash needs to be aggressive offensively and make Jones expend a lot of energy defending him.
Take care of the ball:
So far this season, Notre Dame has done a great job taking care of the ball, turning it over only 11 times per contest. However, they have not played a defense as aggressive, or athletic as Kentucky. Calipari loves to pressure guards defensively and I haven’t seen enough from Hansbrough or Atkins to convince me they will handle the pressure. From what I’ve seen, Notre Dame is without a true point guard this season and that could hurt against a defense like Kentucky’s.
Continue to rebound the ball:
Notre Dame has done an amazing job on the glass this season, ranking 6th in the country. They will need to continue to attack the glass tonight. Kentucky really emphasizes offensive rebounds and put backs, sending four and sometimes five players to the offensive glass. If Notre Dame doesn’t allow second chance points, they have a very good chance of stealing this game.