Notre Dame was on fire from three-point range early on Saturday, finishing up with 12 on the night to pace the team to an easy 87-54 victory over Brown. In front of 8,386 fans at the Joyce Center, the win was the 27th straight for the Irish at home, which builds off the school record set back on December 8th against Northern Illinois. Before Big East play starts on January 3rd against West Virginia, Notre Dame has one more non-conference contest left. The Irish will battle North Florida (1-10). Tip-off is scheduled for 1 PM on Monday.
Notre Dame (9-2) has now won seven straight games since back-to-back losses to Baylor and Georgia Tech in the Paradise Jam Tournament in the Virgin Islands. Not only are the Irish on a roll. Notre Dame is in one of those offensive grooves. While the level of competition in the nine-game winning streak can be questioned, there's no doubt that the Irish will be heading into Big East play with a full head of steam. On Saturday night against Brown, a balanced attack, especially from the perimeter, carried Notre Dame to the victory.
"I'm really pleased with tonight because we've talked about this starting Big East week," Brey said. "We wanted to focus like it's a Big East game. We put 48 points up on the board before halftime in a game where you don't have as many possessions because of their long Princeton possessions. It shows how efficient we were. In the second half, we continued to stay sharp and do a good job.
"I love how we move the ball. I thought we were disciplined defensively. We never let them get going. I think they're a pretty good team. I think they're the team that can win the Ivy League. I didn't expect that we could do this to them."
The numbers don't lie for Notre Dame during the streak. Coming into Saturday, the Irish have rarely had an off-night on the offensive end of the court, averaging better than 84 PPG and shooting 49 percent from the field. It was more of the same against Brown. It's been tough on the opposition with inside presence Luke Harangody down low wreaking havoc in the paint area and three-point specialist Kyle McAlarney having one solid game after another.
On Saturday, it was production from just about everybody that really challenged Brown (6-5) to keep up in the first half. McAlarney got his three-pointers. The junior guard finished the night with 12 points, all on four made baskets from behind the arc. Harangody continued his steady play. The sophomore forward, who is the team's leader in scoring and rebounding, ended with 13 points and eight rebounds, despite the Bears best efforts to play a zone and pack it in the lane.
Brown's job was made tougher as one player after another stepped up, especially from three-point range. In the first half, Notre Dame was 8-of-16 from behind the arc. Junior forward Ryan Ayers and sophomore guard Jonathan Peoples both hit a pair to compliment McAlarney's three before halftime. Ayers ended with 13 points and Peoples finished with eight. Luke Zeller made his only three-point shot of the half as the Irish shot 51 percent from the field to stake themselves to a 48-27 halftime lead. Notre Dame had six players score between eight and 15 points in the contest. Sophomore point guard Tory Jackson, despite shooting just 1-of-6 from the field, dished out nine assists to only one turnover. In the game, the Irish had 23 assists to seven turnovers.
"I really like watching play and practice," Brey said. "Those eight guys really know how to play. They know how to play. They move the ball freely. They're shooters. There is freedom to play."
In last week's win over San Francisco, the Irish held a 13-point halftime lead before the Dons closed the deficit to make it a contest in the second half. Notre Dame did not let this scenario repeat itself on Saturday. A quick 12-2 run turned a 21-point halftime lead into an insurmountable 60-30 advantage. Rob Kurz was the team's high point man, leading the Irish with 15 points. The senior forward, who is the team's third leading scorer, notched 10 of those points in the second half.
Kurz has scored in double figures in seven of 11 games. The senior captain also pulled down 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Kurz was a big reason why the Irish outrebounded Brown 54-25, including 22 offensive rebounds. It led to 27 second chance points and the Notre Dame defense held the Bears to 6-of-29 shooting from inside the three-point line.
"I gave our guys a stat sheet at pre-game meal today," Brey said. "It showed us and our defensive identity. Everyone talks about our offense and they should. On some nights, it's almost clinical at times. I'm the biggest fan of it. But what's lost is field goal percentage defense. We're in the top-50 in the national rankings. We're there in the rebounding margins. We felt getting on the offensive boards was key tonight and the tip-ins really built the lead before half."
BROWN 54: Huffman 6-12, 4-6 21; McAndrew 3-7, 2-2 10; Kane 2-4, 0-0 6; Sullivan 2-5, 1-2 6; Friske 0-1, 0-0 0; Skrelja 1-6, 0-1 2; MacDonald 0-3, 1-2 1; Taylor 1-1, 0-1 2; Gruber 0-1, 0-0 0; Williams 1-4, 0-0 3; Kelly 0-4, 0-0 0; Leffelman 1-2, 0-0 2; Mullery 0-2, 1-2 1; Totals: 17-52, 9-16 54.
NOTRE DAME 87: Kurz 5-10, 5-5 15; 5-11, 0-0 13; Harangody 6-10, 1-2 13; McAlarney 4-11, 0-0 12; Zeller 3-4, 1-1 9; Peoples 2-4, 2-2 8; Jackson 1-6, 1-2 4; Hillesland 2-4, 0-0 4; Abromaitis 0-5, 2-2 2; Nash 1-1, 0-1 2; Proffitt 1-2, 0-0 3; Andree 0-0, 2-2 2; Kopko 0-1, 0-0 0; Totals: 30-70, 13-32 87.