"I didn't think to yell and get them tighter," Brey said. "I thought maybe we were a little tight. A lot of that is that a good team had us tight. It was more of a matter of relax and we're not running and attacking."
The calming effect paid off big time in the second half. Notre Dame outscored Hofstra 40-17 during the final 20 minutes en route to a 69-50 win at the Joyce Center. Led by Colin Falls's 19 points, Chris Quinn chipping in 16 and freshman Luke Zeller's productive play, the Irish moved to 2-0 on the season and will face North Carolina State on Saturday in Indianapolis for the John Wooden Classic. Brey, in his sixth year as coach of Notre Dame, has started every year 2-0 and had the inspired second half performance to thank for this one.
"A good basketball team had us back on our heals in the first half with their speed and they defended us well," Brey said. "I was really proud. We haven't had game pressure on us yet with new guys. It was interesting to find out about our group. Falls, Quinn and (Torin) Francis kind of steadied us. I thought Luke Zeller was fabulous. I think you can see he has a chance to be a special one."
The Irish used a 14-2 run in the early stages of the second half to take control of the contest. Falls hit a three-pointer and drew two fouls on the long-range shot that added four more points to key the spurt.
"We got off to a slow start," Falls said. "That's the great thing about Coach Brey. He lets us shoot out of slumps. I got going a little bit and made some shots."
Zeller capped it off with a block on the defensive end and a subsequent basket to increase the Notre Dame lead to 46-38. Zeller did a little bit of everything as his stat line tells: six points, nine rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes of action. It more than made up for the opening game performance that saw the freshman foul out, commit four turnovers and score no points. Tuesday night was a little different.
"I don't know why you guys didn't talk to me last game," Zeller joked. "After last game, it was frustrating. I've played a lot of game and I've played a lot of bad games. You just go out, the sun comes up in the morning and I know God is faithful because of that. I wake up and go after it again. I'll do the same thing tomorrow morning and wipe this one away. "It helps a lot to just get out there and be relaxed and get comfortable with the flow of the game."
"I was really happy for him because he didn't have a very good first collegiate outing," Brey said of Zeller. "He's learning that he's 6-11 and can rebound with anybody. Some of those rebounds were towering rebounds in traffic. He's got such good hands. I was hoping for a night like this one before we get into what's coming and for him to be confident."
Hofstra closed it to 48-43 with 11 minutes to play but that was the closest the Pride would get the rest of the game. With the score 54-46, a 9-0 run that saw a Zeller three-pointer and a Quinn floating shot in the lane crushed any shot at a comeback. Hofstra had no answer for the Notre Dame second half surge. The Pride were led by Loren Stokes's 13 points, Carlos Rivera's 11 points and Adrian Uter's 10 points.
The Notre Dame defense was once again stout. A switch to a zone in the second half stymied the quick Hofstra guards and forced them into bad shots. The Pride shot only 22.6 percent in the second half and 31 percent for the game. It was the second straight game that Notre Dame held their opponent under 40 percent from the field. Hofstra's top three guards, Stokes, Rivera and Antoine Aguido, combined to shoot 13-of-40 from the field. Francis, who hauled down seven rebounds in addition to 11 points, knows how important defense is for this Notre Dame team.
"Defense is what wins games," Francis said. "That's how it's been and that's how it's always going to be. That may not have always been our focus and I think it's showed the past couple of years with our absence from the tournament. This is a different year. We play more as a team and it's evident. We're playing as a team on defense. We're helping the guards on on-the-ball screens and communicating. We have to lock down defensively in order to win."