Samford's deliberate style of play and hustling defense kept the Irish off-balance for the first 13 minutes as the Irish struggled to get the offense going, resulting in a 12-12 tie at this point. However, over the next seven minutes, the Irish took the lead by outscoring the Bulldogs 16-5 to take a 28-17 lead into the locker room.
Junior Chris Quinn and Sophomore Colin Falls led the first stanza scoring with six points each. Sophomore Russell Carter came off the bench and gave the team a much needed spark with his defensive play, plus contributing five points.
The Irish were cold from the field in the opening half, hitting on 11-of-33 for 33.3 percent including 4-of-11 from 3-point range.
Senior Chris Thomas opened the second half by hitting both shots of the technical foul that was called on the Samford bench as they headed into the locker room at half time. This was the beginning of the Irish scoring spree as they outscored their opponent 21-8 to lead by 26 with just under eight minutes to go.
The Bulldogs fought back after the Irish scoring explosion, however, and cut into the Irish lead down the stretch to make the score more respectable with just a 12-point defeat. The final score does not reflect the dominance the Irish had during the second half.
Thomas, after scoring two points in the first half, came on to score a team and game high 14 points. Carter was next in scoring with a career high 11 points followed by Quinn and Falls with 9 each.
Junior Torin Francis had interesting stats as he did not score but hauled in 14 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.
Notre Dame finished the night hitting 20-of-53 field goals for 37.7 percent. From 3-point range, they were 8-of-19 for 42.1 percent.
Coach Mike Brey was happy to come away with the win against Samford and their offensive plan.
"It is just a very different style of play obviously," Brey said. "With one day of preparation you try and get your second unit to simulate that and they did a pretty good job of it. I think when we got Jordan [Cornette] and Russ [Carter] in there defensively, we were able to contest a little bit more instead of following and we got some energy going.
"It's tough because you don't have many offensive possessions so you've really got to make sure you get really good ones. And I thought when we had the spurt just before the half that we made some pretty good decisions, got some rebounds, and knocked some shots down at key times."
Irish Eyes talked with Chris Quinn after the game about the importance of the four-game winning streak.
"It gives us a lot of confidence going into Big East play which is a major part of our season," said Quinn. "The last two games before this one were kind of running and putting the ball up and this game was a slow-down game.
"We have both of these kinds of teams in the Big East, so it has really prepared us well for the Big East, and it is an exciting time now to get ready to play against Big East opponents."
The steadily improving Russell Carter had his best night since joining the Irish and told us, "It just feels good to win, and I'm glad I was able to contribute. Double-digit scoring is good, but I also had a couple of assists and I had a couple of turnovers and rebounds too. They don't necessarily look for me to score but when I can score, that is a plus."
Brey said he's been pleased with Carter's progress so far this season.
"He is a key guy for us," Brey said. "What he brings physically, especially when you are getting into the Big East bodies; that is attractive. He makes stuff happen and I think he is getting more confident. And I thing the older guys on the team are more confident in him now.
"I was happy to see him hit his shot in the flow of things because he is a good shooter, but he hasn't been comfortable playing with the veterans and stepping up and shooting his shot because he can really shoot it."
The Irish return to action and begin Big East play Wednesday, January 5, as they travel east to take on the Seton Hall Pirates.