By Matt Sugam
As No. 20 Notre Dame prepared for Rutgers, Mike Brey’s message to his team was simple. The Scarlet Knights recently did something that they couldn’t do.
“Rutgers beat St. John’s on the road, we didn’t,” Brey said on the Big East conference call on Thursday. “It’s real simple.”
What isn’t so easy is how Notre Dame will handle Austin Johnson, who’s found success against the Fighting Irish during his time on the banks.
“I just think he plays so hard,” Brey said. “I don’t watch them all the time. I watch the tapes and against us he plays really hard.”
Against [Luke] Harongody, against [Jack] Cooley, he’s been a guy that’s been hard for us and I think certainly we have to have a special focus of keeping him off the backboard and not letting him run wild in the paint because I have a lot of respect for how he’s played against us.”
And Rutgers will need Johnson to replicate his recent dominance as their big man is one of their keys to success.
“Cooley,” Dane Miller said after the USF game when asked what makes Notre Dame so tough to play. “If you don’t try to contain him and not rustle him the whole game he’s a walking 20 and 20 so you have to understand you have to contain him.”
But Notre Dame’s backcourt is nothing to slouch at either.
“Eric Atkins to me is the most underrated guard in the Big East,” Miller said. “So he goes out, Jerian Grant goes out, so you have to contain those guys and try to defensively be focused and locked in.”
All the while Rutgers has to do what they do best. Display their athleticism and get out and run.
“Just got to play with a lot of athleticism. We’re probably the faster team so we’re going to try and get in transition,” Miller said. “We understand they’re a really good team with a great coach, so just come out and execute on offense. When we execute on offense we could win any game.”