This contest was over at halftime. The Irish raced out to 32-point intermission lead and kept up the heat in the second half for a 92-49 victory over the Mastodons at the Joyce Center. The most interesting part of the final 20 minutes was whether the brothers from the ESPN Classic show, "Cheap Seats," were going to be more entertaining than the contest on the floor. The 43-point win was the largest since 2002, when Notre Dame beat down IUPUI 89-45.
The Irish used a 61 percent shooting performance in the first half, coupled with a sizeable rebounding advantage, to put this game out of reach early. The Irish move to 1-0 on the season and next play on Monday. They'll face Butler in Indianapolis at Conseco Fieldhouse as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
"Our energy level was the key," head coach Mike Brey said. "Our style of play, it's different. You guys know better than anybody. It's fun to watch and I think we're buying into our depth and defense and running the floor. I didn't expect this. I think they are a really good team. They could never get into an offensive rhythm and it was us and our defense and running the floor."
There was actually a moment in the game where IPFW led. A basket by Chris Perkins gave the Mastodons a 4-2 lead. This was the highlight of the night for IPFW because Notre Dame proceeded to go on a 20-2 run to make it 22-6 Irish. In the spurt, bench mates Zach Hillesland and Luke Harangody scored 10 of the points. Both these players were too much for the Mastodons to handle. Hillesland recorded his first double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds while the freshman Harangody was just as good, totaling 12 points and eight rebounds. For the contest, Notre Dame's bench outscored the Mastodons 35-13.
"We can change ends better," Brey said about the depth of this Notre Dame team. "You can rebound better. Nobody is tired on defense or a block out. We're beating people down the floor. We do have big guys that can handle the ball in the post."
The Irish certainly didn't lapse on the defensive end. Notre Dame held IPFW (0-1) to 26 percent shooting in the first half and 27 percent for the contest. The Mastodons two leading scorers from last season, Quintin Carouthers and DeWitt Scott, had a total seven points on 2-of-11 shooting. A mix of press combined with some quick hands caused IPFW to turn the ball over 14 times, leading to many Irish transition field goals.
"Easy baskets," Brey said. "We've been able to get some easy baskets. That's something we haven't done in the past. We're on the offensive boards. It's our fresh guys. I tell them to not pace themselves. Play your spurt and stay fresh."
The amazing part of the first half rout: the Irish did not hit a three-pointer until three minutes remaining in the half. A characteristic of a Brey-coached team is scoring from three-point distance. But Colin Falls's long-range bomb that made the score 45-19 was the first of the evening. They didn't need to chuck it from behind the arc. Notre Dame shot 61 percent from the field in the first half, scoring 22 of their 24 baskets via the two-point shot. The 24 field goals in the first half tied the record for the most made ever under Brey in a single half. Russell Carter was a big part of this, racking up a team-high 20 points with a variety of outside shooting, drives to the basket and power dunks. IPFW head coach Dane Fife looked bewildered at his post-game press conference as to what happened at the Joyce Center.
"We came in with the thought that we could win this basketball game," Fife said. "Wow, were we wrong. We were beat in every way. That's a reflection of the coach. I'll take the blame for not having the kids ready and not instilling the competitive nature that it takes to compete at this level. I think if they compete like that, they got a chance in the Big East. It's a very tough conference but I think they have a very good chance."
Rebounding was another big key in the blowout victory. The loss of Francis and Rick Cornett to graduation left some voids under the basket. But Rob Kurz, a week off of sustaining a broken nose, showed on Friday that he's willing to pick up the slack in big-time fashion. The junior, who was announced as one of the captains before the game along with Colin Falls, controlled the flow in the paint. Kurz ended the game with a double-double, notching 16 points and 12 rebounds.
"You are seeing the development of one heck of a Big East forward," Brey said about Kurz. "It's the progression of our basketball program and one guy getting better. I'm really proud of him. No one works harder than him."
Notre Dame 92
Kurz 6-10, 4-5 16, Zeller 3-5, 0-0 6, Falls 1-5, 3-4 6, McAlarney 4-7, 0-0 9, Carter 7-15, 3-6 20, Jackson 3-5, 0-0 6, Harden 0-0, 2-2 2, Peoples 1-1, 0-0 2, Hillesland 5-5, 1-3 11, Piller 0-0, 0-0 0, Andree 0-0, 0-2 0, Ayres 0-1, 2-2 2, Harangody 4-9, 4-4 12. Totals 34-63, 19-28 92.
Scott 1-3, 2-4 5, Hawkins 2-3, 0-0 5, Best 3-9, 2-2 8, Carouthers 1-8, 0-0 2, Perkins 2-11, 0-0 5, Johnson 1-6, 0-0 3, Lepper 0-4, 0-0 0, Savely 1-2, 0-1 2, Jenkins 1-3, 0-1 3, Burrows 0-2, 1-2 1, Ademi 1-2, 2-2 4, Egeric 4-9, 3-3 11. Totals 17-62, 10-15 49.