Notre Dame found out how difficult it is to beat a Top 25 opponent in its last outing. That's old news for Gonzaga.
The 23rd-ranked Fighting Irish look to bounce back from their first loss Saturday night when they host a Gonzaga team that has played a challenging schedule en route to its worst start in 12 seasons under coach Mark Few.Notre Dame averaged 81.8 points and shot 45.3 percent from the field in winning its first eight games against mostly inferior opponents. The Irish faced their first ranked team Wednesday night, and things did not go well.They shot 36.4 percent -- 20.0 in the second half -- and made a season-low 60.0 percent of their free throws in a 72-58 loss to No. 17 Kentucky in the SEC/Big East Invitational at Freedom Hall in Louisville.Ben Hansbrough led the Irish with 21 points but scored two in the second half. Notre Dame went without a field goal for over 12 minutes spanning the first and second halves, allowing Kentucky to turn an 11-point deficit into a seven-point lead."We missed some stuff around the basket, that deflated us a little," coach Mike Brey said. "I thought we were poised at times and we were frazzled at times. We weren't scoring."It was the second consecutive 20-point effort from Hansbrough after having a career-high 24 in an 81-72 win over Indiana State on Nov. 30. He leads the Irish with 16.3 points and 3.8 assists per game, and is shooting 54.9 percent (28 for 51) from 3-point range.Hansbrough will now get to face a Bulldogs squad that allowed Washington State to shoot 50.0 percent overall and 52.4 from beyond the arc in beating the Zags 81-59 on Wednesday night."We didn't respond on offense or defense and I thought that was the difference all night," Few told Gonzaga's official website. "We didn't compete."We acted like we were afraid on offense. At times, especially in the second part of that first half, we were doing what we were supposed to do, and maybe the start of the game we defended decently well but we definitely lost sight of that in the second half."Gonzaga dropped to 4-4, with three of the losses coming to ranked opponents. The Bulldogs also face No. 10 Baylor in Dallas next Saturday."The schedule is just beating us up and really taking its toll, but we have to respond," Few said.After playing then-No. 25 San Diego State close, the Bulldogs lost to then-No. 4 Kansas State and then-No. 20 Illinois by an average of 14.5 points. The Wildcats and Fighting Illini each hit 12 3s, and Gonzaga allowed the Cougars to make 11 on Wednesday."We've got to keep our heads up," center Robert Sacre said. "It's a long season."This will be the first meeting between these schools.