ND Hoops Notebook: Army game 12/21/2006

SOUTH BEND - Like Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said, they weren't going to error on the side of caution with senior guard Colin Falls. Out the last two games with plantar fasciitis, Falls returned to the lineup Thursday night and netted a season-high 24 points in 18 minutes, leading the Irish to a 88-47 thumping of Army, at the Joyce Center.

Falls could've played 30 minutes if needed, but the game was well in control at halftime, as the 20th-ranked Irish (10-1) built a 46-20 lead at the break.

"Honestly, tonight was kind of up in the air because I got out of practice Monday morning and I was sore, but I got through that and the last two days I was sympton free," Falls explained. "Hopefully it just holds up the rest of the season.

"I think I'm moving better. It's kind of playing with a free mind. Sometimes, like you can have a nagging injury and you can say you're playing with a free mind but maybe you're not. When shots go down it makes it easier too."

It looked very easy.

Falls was a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor in the first half, and at one point had outscored Army (9-3), 18-15. The full repertoire was on display from the bread-and-butter out-of-bounds play, to open threes, hand-in-the-face threes, a mid-range jumper, and a driving lay-in.

"It just felt good," Falls said. "This is probably how it felt the first two months after it happened. I felt loose, I was moving better and hopefully it continues."

"For a guy who has played so much basketball to then have to sit out twice, he was chomping at the bit," Brey said. "It was good to have him out there and, he is a key guy for our team. Beyond shooting the ball well and scoring, just his presence on the court is so important for us."

Falls will have to monitor his foot the rest of the season. He said if you felt it, you could feel a golf-ball type swelling.

"I just gotta make sure I'm stretching it and icing it."

*Freshman forward Luke Harangody had 10 points and a season-high 12 rebounds and four assists. Classmate Tory Jackson had three points, four rebounds and a season-high five assists, with just one turnover.

"I felt good out there," Harangody stated. "I just saw things and the rebounds came to me, so it was a good night."

"(Harangody) continues to give us toughness inside," Brey said. "I also thought Tory Jackson came in and gave us energy and really was smart with the ball. It was just a real unselfish game for the whole team. We had 27 assists on 31 baskets and shot the ball very well."

The Irish hit a season-high 15 3-point baskets. The previous high was 12 against Alabama.

*Sophomore Ryan Ayers scored a season high seven points in 19 minutes, matching his career best. The 6-foot-8 forward is trying to make a case that Brey needs to push the regular rotation from eight to nine guys.

"We've got eight-nine guys you feel really good about, and watching them through the preseason, you just got really confident that you could use those guys and we were a team that played off of each other that way," Brey explained. "But (Ayers) continues to get better.

*With its ninth win in a row, Notre Dame has the program's longest winning streak since the 1986-87 season, when that squad won 11-straight games.

"That is something we will probably address when we get back," Brey said. "Again, I think anything they can hang their hat on, I want them to hang their hat on. They've done some good things to date. To grow confidence and security, I think it‘s a good thing with this team."

*Brey set just one rule for his players as they returned home for Christmas break.

"Christmas rules, no pick-up," Brey stated with a smile. "No pick-up basketball. I told them I would fine you your meal money if you come back with a new injury."

The Irish are back in action Dec. 28, when they host Rider.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories