Irish handle FDU, move to 8-1

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Prior to Saturday's game against Fairleigh Dickinson, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey made sure his team was aware of other results from around the country.

Most notably, the four teams -- No. 15 Miami, No. 17 Michigan, Georgia Tech, and Purdue -- that last week were winners in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but lost on Saturday.

Just seeing those scores had Brey on high alert.

"I get tight as a drum," Brey said. "And the kicker, when I get in my car, I looked out and there's a full moon, too. So, then I was really wacky."

Thanks to Pat Connaughton's 19 points, Jerian Grant's 15 points, and a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds from Zach Auguste, Notre Dame managed to turn back Fairleigh Dickinson, 75-57.

Coming off the high of beating No. 19 Michigan State, 79-78 in overtime Wednesday, the Irish started slow before pulling away in the second half to keep from becoming another in the line of upset victims.

"(Brey) was harping on that all day," Connaughton said. "It was good for us to think about that."

The Knights got within 11 points with 6:40 to play before committing three straight turnovers, then missing their next seven shots from the field. The Irish (8-1) used a 9-0 run in that span to push their lead to 20 with less than three minutes to play.

"We defended well enough to not get bit tonight," Brey said.

Mustafaa Jones hit 4-of-6 from 3-point range and led Fairleigh Dickinson (3-4) with 16 points.

The Knights went 1-of-8 from the field to open the second half, leading to an 8-2 run for Notre Dame. The Irish led by 18 seven minutes into the second before Jones and Connaughton traded 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to keep it from becoming a runaway.

"I thought they had to work for that win," said FDU coach Greg Herenda.

In the first meeting between the schools, Fairleigh Dickinson did its best to slow the tempo down, mixing an active zone defense with a pesky press to keep it close.

"We knew we had to stay focused the whole game," Grant said. "They were in a matchup zone, which is something we hadn't seen all season. We kind of had to figure that out."

The Irish struggled from deep early, hitting just 2-of-11 from 3-point range in the first half, but the second of those 3s was Grant's shot from the wing with four seconds left to give Notre Dame a 10-point lead at halftime.

THE DEFENDER: Coming off a career-high 29 points in a win over Princeton, the Knights' Matt MacDonald was held to nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, thanks in large part to the defensive effort of Steve Vasturia, who also scored 10 points.

"The guy is so solid, and he's always the fourth guy we talk about," Brey said. "He so reliable, defensively."

TOUGH JOB: Fairleigh Dickinson held the Irish, the national leader in field goal percentage, 6.6 points under that average, thanks mainly to its 3-point defense. The Irish shot just 23.5 percent (4-of-17) from beyond the arc but still finished at 50 percent overall.

TIP-INS: Notre Dame -- After committing a season-low four turnovers in their overtime win against Michigan State, the Irish matched that mark just over 12 minutes into the game against FDU.

Fairleigh Dickinson -- Head coach Greg Herenda's brother, Anthony, is a Notre Dame graduate and was in attendance at the Joyce Center when the Irish ended UCLA's 88-game win streak in 1974.

UP NEXT
-- Notre Dame hosts Mount St. Mary's on Tuesday.
-- Fairleigh Dickinson visits St. John's on Wednesday.


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