SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Duke presents Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps with a grab-bag of troubles. Each time he reaches in, Phelps pulls out a new problem.
Duke beat Notre Dame last year and looks even tougher this year, Phelps said Thursday. So he doesn't expect things to be any easier today when the Irish, 17-4, meet Duke, 23-2, at Durham.
"(Johnny) Dawkins and (Mark) Alarie are probably one of the best backcourts in the nation," Phelps said at a news conference.
Dawkins and Alarie have combined this season to average about 35 points a game for Duke and give opponents their number-one problem.
Alarie then recombines with Jay Bilas and Danny Ferry under the boards to pull down nearly half of the Blue Devils' rebounds.
"They really give you an explosive inside game," Phelps continued.
That's not the end of his problems.
"The guy that makes things happen more than anyone else is (David) Henderson," Phelps said.
Henderson was averaging 13.6 points and 4.9 rebounds. When he's hot, Henderson can do it all--outside shooting, rebounding, inside scoring, Phelps said. "Henderson is like Michael Jordan was to North Carolina," he concluded.
"I don't think we can afford to get into a negative start like we did at the Meadowlands," he said.
The negative start began last season with Notre Dame missing its first seven field goal attempts, while Duke streaked to a quick, 10-0, lead and won, 81-69. Henderson, Alarie and Dawkins totaled 50 points in the game.
This year, the Irish might have to manage without two of their starters. Freshman guard Mark Stevenson has the flu and Donald Royal, averaging 9.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, was still troubled by a hip bruise suffered in Tuesday's 81-58 victory over Fordham.
Phelps has had a tough time with Duke during his career, winning only once and losing three times since coming to Notre Dame. But he sees a battle with Duke as good experience for the NCAA tournament berth he's sure the Irish will win.