Irish Whip Elon

SOUTH BEND- Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said earlier this week that the first game after final exams always scares him. The Irish had been off since a December 7th upset victory over Alabama. The nine day layoff was evident on very occasions on Saturday night at the Joyce Center against Elon. For the most part, Notre Dame had no problem disposing of a one-win Phoenix squad.

Ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press poll and back in the top-25 for the first time since December of 2004, the Irish continued their winning ways with a 94-63 win over Elon. The victory is the seventh straight for Notre Dame (8-1). More impressively, four of them have come by 15 points or more. The Irish will be back in action on Tuesday as they host Portland. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Joyce Center. On Saturday, Notre Dame raced out to a 20-point halftime lead and never looked back.

"We played the way we practiced," Brey said. "I was really impressed by the way we practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday during exam week. I haven't had a group that good during a strenuous time. I thought we got off to a good start. We started out defending them, which is key in these games. We were very efficient offensively. Other than that stretch where we turned it over in the first half, we were very business like and matter-of-fact playing the game."

The Irish were without captain Colin Falls. The senior guard underwent shock wave therapy on Friday to treat plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Falls's absence and his 13.8 scoring average would have been missed dearly against Alabama or Maryland. But versus an inferior Elon team, Notre Dame did just fine. The Irish dominated the stat sheet in various categories, whether it was a 55-30 rebounding advantage or holding the Phoenix's best player, LeVonn Jordan, to just seven points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field. Jordan had been averaging 20 PPG prior to Saturday's contest.

Notre Dame immediately came out of the gates to establish a comfortable margin. A 10-0 run to start the game gave the Irish a double-digit lead. Elon scored the next basket to make it 10-2 but that's the closest the Phoenix would get for the rest of the contest. A basket by Chris Chalko did cut the Notre Dame lead to 26-15 but the Irish scored 16 of the game's next 23 points to open it up.

"They are a team where it's going to be difficult to come back against," Elon head coach Ernie Nestor said, whose team fell to 1-7 on the year. "We don't have the defensive ability to take the ball away from a team of that nature. They are an excellent basketball team. They play with such a purpose. If you're not playing them, they are a fun team to watch. They share the basketball."

Instrumental in this run was six points from Rob Kurz, including a fastbreak dunk a nice pass from Russell Carter to make it 42-22. The junior forward also hit his seventh three-pointer of the season to add a dimension to his growing inside presence. Kurz recorded his seventh straight double figure scoring output as he finished with 16 points. He also grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds to secure his fourth double-double of the year. Kurz only made three baskets for the night but got to the free throw line 11 times, connection on nine of them. For good measure, he added another seven assists to fall just short of a rare triple-double and blocked four shots.

"Unbelievable," Brey said of Kurz. "The guy is a machine. It's amazing to watch the strength of his hands around the basket. He just doesn't lose it. He started with some offensive boards. The great thing about him is that he knows who he is and never gets out of character and you look down at the stat sheet and go, ‘Phew.' Another very good night. He's certainly a confident young man and he should be."

The scoring came from everywhere. Carter, recently named Big East Player of the Week, led all players with 21 points. The senior guard, coming off a career-high 27-point effort in the win over the Crimson Tide, continued his hot shooting. Carter connected on 7-of-11 shots, including 5-of-7 from behind the arc. He also had another highlight dunk in the first half along the baseline that brought those in attendance to their feet.

Notre Dame came into the game 10th nationally and first in the Big East in scoring offense. The Irish had been averaging 86 points per game. Despite shooting an average 44 percent, the points continued to be piled up in bunches. Notre Dame was 30-of-38 from the free throw line. Luke Zeller recorded a career-high with 14 points. The sophomore forward did most of his damage from long-distance, connecting on three three-pointers.

Luke Harangody came off the bench to contribute a double-double. The freshman has cooled off offensively the past three games after scoring in double figures in the first five contests. Harangody, along with all of the Notre Dame frontcourt, was too much for Elon to handle. He scored 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to earn his second double-double of the season.

ELON 63

Jordan 2-12, 3-4 7; Carter 5-9, 2-2 14; James 3-7, 0-0 6; Waters 2-4, 0-0 4; Charles 0-1, 0-0 0; Ogolo 3-6, 0-0 8; Constantine 1-4, 0-0 2; Atoyebi 1-5, 0-0 2; Chalko 5-15, 0-0 12; Grable 3-4, 2-2 8; Douglas 0-2, 0-1 0; Totals: 25-69, 7-9 63.

NOTRE DAME 94

Kurz 3-6, 9-11 16; Hillesland 2-3, 2-2 6; Zeller 5-7, 1-3 14; McAlarney 1-5, 6-6 9; Carter 7-11, 2-2 21; Jackson 2-10, 4-8 8; Harden 1-3, 2-2 4; Peoples 0-3, 0-0 0; Piller 0-0, 0-0 0; Andree 0-0, 0-0 0; Ayres 2-4, 0-0 4; Harangody 4-9, 4-4 12; Totals: 27-61, 30-38 94.


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