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Irish Insights

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Irish enter final stretch well-rested

The Notre Dame men's basketball team enters the final stretch of the regular season well rested.

The No. 8 Irish (21-4, 10-3 Big East) haven't played since they throttled South Florida 78-55 last Saturday.

And the week off before starting a stretch of five games in 15 days, starting with Saturday's 1 p.m. visit to West Virginia (16-9, 7-6), has helped Notre Dame.

"We've always been very plugged in to pacing our group physically and mentally through the season," Irish coach Mike Brey said Thursday. "Anytime you can get some guys some rest.

"For our older group, drill footwork is not necessarily important at this point of the year. They have done this stuff over and over again in our program. Really keeping them fresh and their legs and energy level high is really the key. This week afforded us a chance to get a little bit of rest and then get back into a practice rhythm."

Notre Dame will play back-to-back road games with the visit to West Virginia followed by a trip to Providence on Wednesday. Brey said he is keeping his message to the team simple.

"I don't know if we need a new crusade," Brey said. "We are playing a team (West Virginia) with their back against the wall, but we are trying to chase down the regular-season title. We've talked about that. By 7 o'clock Saturday night, it could look really different. That's kind of the motivation. Nothing more than that."

Saturday's game at West Virginia will test two teams' strengths.

The Mountaineers are the third-best offensive rebounding team in the Big East, averaging 14.6 per game. The Irish lead the conference in defensive rebounding, averaging 26.2 per game.

"That's a great test for us," Brey said of West Virginia's rebounding. "We have a clip that we are going to show today where somebody shoots a jumper in the corner, and there are four guys just pushing their guys under the bucket and battling for an offensive rebound.

"Basically, my theme is going to be that is what the game will come down to. Overall this year, we've done a good job of that. That's why we are in the position we are in. But this is a great test of it, how they chase down missed shots."

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