Notre Dame has looked quite beatable in its last two games, as opponents have stepped up their perimeter defense and frustrated the Fighting Irish into making mistakes.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey expects Cincinnati to use a similar strategy.The 16th-ranked Irish hope to play with more composure and avoid a third straight loss Wednesday night when they host the 25th-ranked Bearcats.After losing 79-57 at Marquette on Jan. 10, Notre Dame (14-4, 3-3 Big East) came out flat in Saturday's 72-64 loss to St. John's, setting a Big East school-record low with four first-half field goals.The Irish struggled from 3-point range in both losses, shooting 3 of 16 against the Golden Eagles and 3 of 15 from beyond the arc versus the Red Storm. Notre Dame also committed a season-high 20 turnovers against St. John's -- nearly double its season average of 11.0 per game."My statement is St. John's defended the heck out us," Brey said. "We could never get in any rhythm."His team could again be under heavy duress against the Bearcats (16-2, 3-2), who lead the Big East in scoring defense at 56.2 points per game and rank fourth with an average of 16.2 turnovers forced."I think people are going to press us and come after us. The last two games that's been very successful," Brey said. "Cincinnati certainly has the athletic ability and the depth to come up with the same defense."At least the Irish get to return home.Notre Dame plays four of its next six games at the Joyce Center, where it has won 80 of its last 88. The Irish are 11-0 at home this season, including wins over then-No. 9 Georgetown on Dec. 29 and then-No. 8 Connecticut on Jan. 4.The Bearcats, meanwhile, have lost 18 straight road games against Top 25 teams since beating No. 21 Marquette on Jan. 14, 2004.Notre Dame split two games against Cincinnati last season with each team winning at home. The Irish have taken six of nine meetings all-time with the Bearcats, including all three in South Bend.These teams haven't met since Notre Dame's 83-65 home win Feb. 4, when Tim Abromaitis had 22 points for the Irish.Like most of his teammates, Abromaitis is in an offensive slump. The senior has scored 10 points in each of the last two games after averaging 18.6 in his previous seven.Cincinnati is also looking to bounce back from a sluggish offensive performance after shooting a season-worst 30.5 percent and also scoring a season low in Saturday's 67-52 loss at then-No. 4 Syracuse.The Bearcats missed 18 of their first 20 second-half shots as a four-point halftime deficit quickly grew to 20. Dion Dixon had a game-high 18 points, all on 3-pointers, but Cincinnati's other four starters combined for 14 points while shooting 5 of 23 from the field."We struggled to finish," coach Mick Cronin said. "Our big guys didn't finish around the basket very well. We didn't get the job done."Junior Yancey Gates, who came in averaging 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, injured his ankle and finished with three points and three boards. It is uncertain if the 6-foot-9 forward will miss any time.