ND Offense Starts Slow, Picks Up in 2nd Half

SOUTH BEND - Shots that normally go in for the Notre Dame basketball team, were coming off the rim during the first half, Tuesday night against Portland. Irish players looked around in amazement as their efficient offense wasn't reaping the usual rewards. Like they knew they finally would, the team stayed poised and shots started falling, and the 20th-ranked Irish disposed of the Pilots, 86-69.

The Irish (9-1) shot 36.7 percent in the first half, their second-lowest output of the season (Maryland), and heavy-underdog Portland (2-11) was down just 35-29 at the half.

"We played so well offensively the past couple weeks, I think we were a little, we weren't shocked, but usually some shots we would've made just weren't falling for us," said junior forward Rob Kurz, who did play well in the first half scoring, 14 of his 21 points. "We just had to stay patient and poised like coach says, and I think we did a good job of that."

"I thought Portland really dug into us and defended us well and physically the first 20 minutes," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "We were knocked back and that was a good thing, because we just weren't really flowing offensively. We had to kind of grind and dig. I thought the second half we got into a better rhythm offensively and we were pretty solid defensively to win the game."

The Irish came out in the second half and hit five of their first seven shots from the floor, pushing the lead to 48-37. Russell Carter hit three straight treys during that stretch, sparking him to a career high 28 points.

"Well I knew we needed some breathing room," Carter stated. "We said we should come out strong. They let me get some open shots and I knocked them down. The crowd got into it and we just took it from there."

"I thought we did a real good job spacing the floor out to start the second half offensively," Brey said. "We were in great rhythm. We got some cuts, we got some put backs."

The Irish were much more efficient in the second half, shooting 11-of-24 (45.8 percent), including 6-of-13 (46.2 percent) from the perimeter.

Notre Dame came into the game ranked 10th in the nation in scoring offense at 87 points per game. They still nearly hit the mark because of solid free-throw shooting, making 34-42 attempts (81 percent). The Irish came into the game ranked second in the Big East from the charity stripe, making good 74.9 percent of the time. Villanova shoots 76.8 percent.

*Carter and Kurz continue to impress. Both didn't realize statistically how well they played Tuesday.

Carter had a career-high for the second time in three games. His 28 points eclipsed his previous high by one against then No. 5 Alabama, on Dec. 7.

"Really, just keep it going," Carter said. "As long as we win it doesn't matter to me."

Kurz had his fifth double-double of the season, third in a row, pulling down 11 boards to go with his 21 points.

"I didn't think I had that many rebounds tonight," he said with a laugh. "I was pleasantly surprised to hear."

*Portland stayed in the game by shooting the ball well. They shot 27-of-54 from the floor (50 percent), 6-of-10 from the arc. It just took them awhile to get a shot off, so when they went down double digits, it was tough to come back.

"They were really methodical running their offense," Kurz stated. "They were patient, they screened. They just did a really good job running their stuff and making us pay for every little mistake we made defensively."

*After a tough game against Portland, the wind slightly went out of the sail of the Irish basketball team. The team had been rolling coming into this contest. The players would like to come out and throttle Army quickly on Thursday, before a seven-day layoff over the holiday. Completely right the ship again.

"We want to go home feeling good about ourselves," Kurz said. "We have one more game before this break and we want to make sure we come out and play with a lot of energy."

*Senior guard Colin Falls didn't play against Portland, missing his second straight game. He could be back in action against Army.

"Still questionable but I think we'll evaluate tomorrow and see how he does in practice, and see if we can get him out there," Brey said. "I lean on being aggressive, not safe, but we're not going to do anything stupid. He will certainly be back for Rider, worst-case scenario."

The Irish play Rider, Dec. 28.

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