Irish Breeze to Victory

SOUTH BEND, IN- The offense for Notre Dame didn't appear to be in a good rhythm for the first part of the first half in Monday's season opener against Long Island. Some of the mistakes included turnovers and missed opportunities. But after the slow start, it didn't take long for Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody to get the Irish in a groove and it made for a comfortable opening victory.

Kurz recorded a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Harangody added 15 points to pace Notre Dame to a 82-50 win over Long Island. In front of 8,873 at the Joyce Center on Monday night, the Irish (1-0) cruised to their 21st straight home victory behind the two big men down low and unselfish play. Notre Dame assisted on 28 of 36 made field goals.

Next for the Irish will be the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam at the University of the Virgin Islands. Notre Dame is slated to play four games in four days in the Caribbean, starting on Friday against Monmouth. The contest is slated to start at 8:30 PM. The win over Long Island gives the Irish a solid boost heading into a hectic weekend of contests.

"It was a good start," head coach Mike Brey said. "When you look and see 28 assists, I don't care who you're playing. It makes me feel good. That's who we've been in practice is a very unselfish group. I thought our half court defense was really good. I thought we did a better job in the first half than we did in the St. Edward's game when things weren't going real smooth early, we didn't get distracted or frustrated. We just went on to the next play and went back and defended. We were poised.

"It was a good start. Now we get to go to the Virgin Islands and play for a championship. It's a big week for us."

Notre Dame didn't come out of the gates on fire. Turnovers hampered the Irish early and kept Long Island within single digits for half of the first 20 minutes of action. But the funk didn't last long. After Tory Jackson re-entered the game after committing two early turnovers, the offense started to click and score at will against the Long Island defense.

Jackson, in the backcourt with Kyle McAlarney, who finished with seven points and seven assists in his first regular season game since last year‘s dismissal from school for marijuana possession, spearheaded a 8-2 spurt that pushed a 21-16 advantage to 31-18. In the stretch, the sophomore found Kurz on a behind-the-back pass for a fast break dunk and also hit two baskets. Jackson, whose uncle passed away last weekend, was on point for the rest of the game, controlling the flow of action and orchestrating the Irish attack. The sophomore point guard ended the night with four points and a team-high eight assists.

It's good for Jackson's assist total to have two productive big men down who can put the ball in the basket. Kurz, the lone captain of the team, started out his senior season in fashion. The forward, known for his steady, consistent play, didn't disappoint on Monday. Kurz ended the game with his tenth double-double of his career and more than likely first of many in the 2007-08 season.

"Rob is such a man," Brey said. "I hear his voice in the locker room. Before I get into the huddles, I hear what he's saying. He's a veteran in our program. I've really been happy with him."

Long Island wasn't that far off towards the end of the first half. The Blackbirds had cut the deficit to 33-23 with a few minutes remaining before intermission. But Harangody scored six of the team's next eight points to extend the lead to 41-26 right out of the gate in the second half. The sophomore ended the night with 15 points and six rebounds and provides the Irish with a physical presence down in the paint. Notre Dame controlled the action down low, outscoring Long Island 44-18 in the paint.

The surprise of the night was the play of Luke Zeller off the bench. The junior only saw 13 minutes a game of action last season, averaging 3.4 PPG in the process. If Notre Dame can get the production they got from Zeller off the bench on Monday, it'll make Brey a happier head coach. Zeller finished with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, which would have been his second highest scoring total of the year last season.

"I thought he was fabulous tonight," Brey said of Zeller. "He struggled the other night. I got on him during practice on Thursday about fighting more on a daily basis. I picked on him a little bit and I thought he reacted well. He's practiced like he played tonight. You wait for the light bulb to go on sometimes. I hope that thing is burning bright. We need him to score for us."

LONG ISLAND 50: Kotorobai 2-6, 1-2 6; Manigault 0-4, 0-0 0; Johnson 3-8, 3-3 12; Mozee 1-1, 0-0 3; Mattison 1-5, 0-0 3; Wisseh 2-9, 2-2 6; Udanoh 1-3, 0-0 2; Hicks 1-10, 0-0 2; Allen 7-16, 2-2 16; Adomaitis 0-3, 0-0 0; Totals: 18-65, 8-9 50.

NOTRE DAME 82: Nash 1-5, 0-0 2; Jackson 2-4, 0-0 4; Peoples 2-6, 0-0 5; Abromaitis 1-1, 0-0 0; McAlarney 2-5, 2-2 7; Kurz 8-12, 2-2 19; Hillesland 4-9, 0-1 8; Zeller 5-6, 0-0 12; Ayers 3-8, 0-0 8; Harangody 7-12, 1-4 15; Totals: 35-68, 5-9 82.


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