The Irish got points on its first nine possessions of the contest as a 32-point halftime lead led to a 108-62 win over Northern Illinois, the largest margin of victory for Notre Dame this season. In the process, the school record for consecutive wins at the Joyce Center is broken and the new mark is at 25 and counting. Notre Dame will have a two-week break before No. 26 can be achieved on December 22nd versus San Francisco.
The Irish (7-2), winners of five in a row, haven't lost at the Joyce Center since February 25th, 2006 when Marquette came into South Bend and won 80-72. Since that loss, Notre Dame has been flat out dominant. Coming into Saturday, the Irish's average margin of victory during the streak was 20 points a contest. Notre Dame made sure this stat would rise after a 72-percent shooting and 57-point performance in the first half completely silenced any hope the Huskies had at breaking the streak.
"We've been a fast starting team offensively," Brey said. "Other than the Georgia Tech game, we've gotten out of the gate really good. We score the ball and get into a rhythm. There was added focus with what was on the line. They wanted that record."
Brey was asked at his weekly press conference on Thursday about why his team was so good at home. The Notre Dame head coach said the Irish can really score the basketball. The numbers back it up. Going into Saturday, Notre Dame was shooting 49 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and scoring 83 PPG during the streak. For teams to have any chance to win in South Bend, they would have to keep up offensively.
An opening blitz by the Irish proved early it would be a long night for Northern Illinois (2-7). Notre Dame got points on its first nine possessions of the game to take a quick 22-12 lead just four minutes into the contest. One player with a huge hand in this beginning run was Kyle McAlarney. The junior guard has scored 17 points or more in his last five games. McAlarney continued his hot shooting with four three-pointers during this stretch. One three-pointer right after the other, the junior guard was on fire in staking the Irish to the advantage. McAlarney finished the game with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including five made three-pointers.
Notre Dame wasn't done in totaling the most points this season before halftime as well as the biggest lead. The Huskies were down nine at 27-18 before a big Irish run put the game away for good. Notre Dame ended the half by outscoring Northern Illinois 30-7 from this point on. The only downer in the half was that sophomore guard Tory Jackson left the contest with a bruised elbow. Jackson did not return in the second half.
Notre Dame scored in a variety of ways in the first half. The Irish shot 72 percent from the field before halftime, including 8-of-12 from three-point range. In the game, Notre Dame finished at 62 percent from the field and totaled 14 made three-pointers. The Irish assisted on 14 of 18 made field goals in the first half and 27 of 36 in the game.
"We were really ready to play," Brey said. "We were really focused. When you get out of the gate offensively like that, it sets the tone. The energy in the building was good. That helped us. Great unselfishness. We had 27 assists. It's a team that loves to play together and knows how to play."
Scoring-wise, it was a collective effort. Senior captain Rob Kurz tied McAlarney's team-high of 17 points. Kurz has scored in double figures in six of nine contests this season and is third in scoring on team behind Luke Harangody and McAlarney. Speaking of Harangody, the big man inside finished with another solid performance, totaling 14 points and pulling down 12 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season. The sophomore forward made several high effort plays to keep possessions alive and continued to control the paint area. Ryan Ayers totaled 11 as every available Notre Dame player recorded points on Saturday. The blowout allowed Brey to empty his bench and give the three freshmen and other reserves extended minutes of action.
"I didn't expect to get them in the first half," Brey said of the freshmen. "I thought Ty Nash gave us a physical presence. Certainly, Abromaitis is a talented young man. He's an offensive guy who fits with what we do. It's hard to get him in there. He has a really bright future. Ty Proffitt has been hurt but it was good to get him back. He's has a future, too. It was good to get them in there before a two-week break."
NORTHERN ILLINOIS 62: Grafel 4-6, 0-0 8; Logan 4-7, 0-0 10; Patton 4-11, 0-0 12; Landers -8, 0-1 6; Anderson 1-8, 2-2 4; Ervin 1-4, 0-2 2; Nichols 3-12, 1-1 8; Smith 0-4, 0-0 0; Kelley 0-1, 1-2 1; Rand 1-1, 0-1 2; Hart 2-5, 5-8 9; Totals: 23-67, 9-17 62.
NOTRE DAME 108: Kurz 4-7, 7-8 17; Harangody 5-7, 4-4 14; Jackson 2-2, 0-2 4; McAlarney 6-10, 0-0 17; Ayers 4-6, 1-3 11; Nash 3-3, 0-4 6; Proffitt 1-3, 0-0 3; Peoples 3-4, 1-2 8; Abromaitis 2-6, 2-2 7; Hillesland 1-3, 6-8 8; Zeller 2-4, 1-2 6; Kopko 2-2, 0-0 5; Andree 1-1, 0-0 2; Totals: 36-58, 22-35 108.