NOTRE DAME, Ind. – USC Upstate's Nick Schneiders is certainly not Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet, but the big man from Rietberg, Germany is 7-foot-3.
Notre Dame will face Thabeet and the Huskies at least twice during Big East play this season and the Irish frontcourt got a look at dealing with that type of size in their 94-58 opening win over USC Upstate.
"I talked to him, I said, ‘This is pretty good that you're playing against a 7-2 guy because we're going to see Thabeet twice," Brey said of his conversation with Luke Harangody prior to the game.
While Schneiders measures over 7 feet, his opponent for most of the night, Harangody, is listed at 6-8 and may be even shorter than that, giving the Spartan at least seven inches on Harangody. Still, Harangody showed that he had zero fear of the big guy, taking it to him repeatedly, even trying to dunk on him toward the end of the first half. Schneiders fouled Harangody on the attempted dunk.
"I'm doing that with everybody that guards me. I'm trying to just get up with them and go at them," Harangody said. "7-3, 6-8, 6-10, it's whatever."
While the Irish were able to use their quickness and Harangody's toughness against Schneiders on offense, the Spartans were effective running their offense through Schneiders early on the other end. Schneiders picked up his second foul six minutes into the first half and sat out until the eight-minute mark of the first half.
Schneiders was not some big stiff and earned Harangody's respect.
"He's a great player. Highly skilled, can move up and down the court real well and he has some good moves inside. I think he's going to have a good career," Harangody said of Schneiders. "That's like going up against a Big East body so it was a real good test for us."
Harangody, Luke Zeller and Zach Hillesland were able to use their bodies to do a good job of keeping Schneiders from dominating the glass. Harangody finished with a game-high 30 points and 14 rebounds while Schneiders had 12 points and seven boards.
Hillesland did not play much in preseason with a foot injury, but was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Zeller to join Harangody, McAlarney, Ayers and Jackson. But Peoples and Zeller also saw major minutes, 20 and 19 respectively, and Zeller was second on the Irish with 18 points.
Brey said that he started Hillesland to try to get the Notre Dame running game going early, but was especially excited with the way that Zeller responded.
"Absolutely no demotion of Luke Zeller," Brey said. "What he did tonight, that's how his been practicing. He's so confident right now, I'm just really happy with how he's playing and he deserves a great senior year."
Brey said that he envisioned the role of eighth man to be held by Tyrone Nash, Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott at different points during the season. At least for the start of the season, that job belongs to Nash, who had six rebounds in 11 minutes. Scott scored six points in six minutes late in the game, while Abromaitis did not see the floor.
ZELLER'S PLAY, HANSBROUGH'S SIT: Zeller's younger brother, Tyler, made his collegiate debut for North Carolina on Saturday. The highly-recruited freshman started in place of the injured Tyler Hansbrough and scored 18 points to lead the Tar Heels over Penn 86-71.
"He played really well, so I'm definitely really proud of him and hoping he keeps it up," Zeller said of his little brother.
Hansbrough's younger brother Ben is sitting out the year at Notre Dame after transferring from Mississippi State.
The Zeller brothers could square off in the Maui Invitational later this month although the Irish and the Tar Heels are on opposite sides of the bracket.
"I think it's in Mom's back of the mind the most. She's trying to figure out what color to where and everything else," Zeller said. "I told her she didn't have to send me money this month if she wears a Notre Dame shirt, but that's probably not going to work out."
PLAY OF THE GAME: The play of the game came with just under eight minutes to go when Jackson threw a lob to Hillesland, who slammed it home and was fouled by USC Upstate's Gabor Boros.
OTHER TIDBITS: The win stretched the Notre Dame home win streak to 38 games, which matches the all-time school-record that was set in 1948. The Irish won't get a chance to break that mark until they entertain Boston University in their next home game on Dec. 13…Brey accepted his second straight Big East Coach of the Year Award before the game… Harangody scored the first bucket of the season for the Irish.