McAlarney netted a career high 21 points, 18 in the first half, helping No. 19 Notre Dame (11-1) cruise to an easy 101-51 victory over Rider (7-5), Thursday night at the Joyce Center.
"Guys were finding me in transition," McAlarney said. "A couple of them, guys made great passes when I slid down to the baseline on penetration. With such an unselfish group, when someone makes a couple shots, we know to get him the ball."
McAlarney normally tries to get his teammates involved right off the bat, but a few missed shots on the Irish's first few possessions changed things. A steal and 3-pointer in transition got the hot hand going two minutes into the game. When halftime came around, McAlarney had hit 6-of-7 threes, and also grabbed three rebounds and dished out three assists with zero turnovers. He finished with six assists and zero turnovers.
Back-to-back treys by McAlarney put the Irish up 23-12 with 10:30 to play in the first half, and Notre Dame led by double digits the rest of the way.
McAlarney's career night raises his scoring average to 10.3 points per game, giving the very efficient Irish attack five players that average double figures. If McAlarney hunted his shot more, he'd certainly be scoring at a much higher volume. But he knows his role.
"He is a real unselfish scorer," said Rob Kurz, who netted a game high 23 points. "He knows he can score a lot, but he prides himself on getting other guys in the game. It's great to play with a point guard who does that."
"He's had games in practices," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "I think what he's doing is learning to balance running the team and hunting his shot. He really has a feel for tempo, when to slow it down, when to call things. He's got great command of our offense too. I thought we did a great job of finding him when we really broke it open in the first half."
McAlarney's three at the top of the key at 9:26 in the second half, trumped his previous career high of 20 he had against Alabama.
*The Irish built its big lead by being efficient on offense. The team went the game's first 15:07 without turning the ball over. In the first half, they assisted on 15-of-18 baskets.
"We've been talking about that a lot lately, and we need to keep that up," McAlarney explained. "We need to keep getting better at that. That's a theme we are really going to strive and perfect this season."
*Rider's 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward Jason Thompson came in averaging 20.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. With Kurz doing most of the work, and a dab of Luke Harangody and Luke Zeller, the Irish big men limited Thompson. Thompson had just three points and one rebound in the game's first 20 minutes, and finished with just nine points and six rebounds.
"I just think we played him with a lot of different bodies," Kurz said. "We just kept fresh bodies on him and that made it difficult."
*Tonight's game for Brey was his 200th at Notre Dame. The win runs his career record to 129-71 (64.5 percent) in seven seasons as the Irish coach.
"That's hard to believe really," he said. "I said at halftime this is our 200th game to (assistant coach) Sean (Kearney). He said that's why I have gray hair, and I said yeah yeah, that's why I'm thinning out.
"But it's been a great ride. Certainly with this team, it's enjoyable to come and teach the class everyday with this group, because they come as very eager students."
*Against Alabama, Zach Hillesland had an opportunity to put Notre Dame at the century mark, but missed a free throw and the Irish had to settle for a 99-85 win. He stepped to the line in the same situation against Rider and drained the freebie, earning an ovation from the crowd.
"I had a flashback to that," Brey said of the Alabama game. "I'm sure the guys have been reminding him of that, and I'm sure he is running it right back at them that he delivered tonight."
*The 56 points the Irish had at intermission is the second most scored in the game's first 20 minutes under Brey. In Brey's first game, Nov. 11, 2000, Notre Dame went for 57 against Sacred Heart.