"Chase it down."
That's the refrain Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey has been repeating to his squad before every practice and every game.
And it's working.
The Fighting Irish (20-4) have won six straight conference games, which has earned them sole possession of second place in the Big East.
Ben Hansbrough and Co. need to continue this hot streak Sunday in Tampa, where they will take on the South Florida Bulls (8-17). While USF has struggled this season—they have a 2-10 conference record through February 11—each Big East game has been close, save for a 72-49 loss to Syracuse last weekend.
Despite those struggles, Notre Dame cannot take any team lightly for the remainder of the season. They must view every game as crucial if they want to be crowned regular season conference champions.
One concern the Irish need to have is the excellent play of South Florida's Augustus Gilchrist. The 6'10", 245-pound forward/center from Clinton, Maryland has averaged 12.3 points per game, along with 6.6 rebounds. On any given night, Gilchrist could easily go for 20 and 10.
For Notre Dame to pull out a victory they must contain Gilchrist and not allow their defense to be carved to pieces like they did in an 89-79 overtime win against Louisville.
Any victory in Big East play is a big deal, especially on the road, and especially if one or both of the teams in question are chasing down the conference title.
That is why Notre Dame must win this game.
Great teams beat the teams they are supposed to beat.
Don't play down to the competition. The team needs to continue to do what they've been doing all season—play with emotion and find a way to win.
Senior Tyrone Nash has been praising that message.
After the Louisville game he was quoted as saying, "We could have easily folded, but we found it inside us. It's something we have inside that won't let us lose, especially in this place.”
Stick with that attitude and the Irish are destined for victory.
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