NOTRE DAME, Ind - Was Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey disappointed with the fact that his team played basically even against Boston University for 38 minutes last night?
No way. In fact, Brey said that he was proud of his players.
"I'm really proud of our guys because we were on the ropes a number of times against a very good team," Brey said. "I'm impressed with BU and I wondered why I scheduled them the more I watched tape of them all week."
The Terriers jumped out to a 15-5 lead five minutes into the game and maintained that lead for most of the first half. Notre Dame grabbed a brief lead when Jonathan Peoples drilled a three-pointer with two minutes left in the half, but BU came back with seven unanswered points to end the half and take a 33-27 lead into intermission.
The Irish took two brief leads in the second half, but did not get its final advantage until Ryan Ayers knocked down a huge trifecta with 1:21 remaining that give Notre Dame a 70-67 lead.
Boston University coach Dennis Wolff had his team ready to play and ready to win.
"I think that we have a good team. So, if you think you have a good team and you go to play any game you have to feel like you're going to try to win the game," Wolff said. "Not playing not to lose, we were trying to win the game."
John Holland led Boston University with 12 points in the first half, but finished with just 15 for the game. Corey Lowe was just 1 of 11 shooting in the first half, but scored 17 in the second half to lead the Terriers with 19 for the game.
"Every time we tied or made a run in the second half, at least two or three times, they came out and hit two bombs," Brey said. "For us to hang in there and find a way to do it, I'm proud of our group. But I don't think that's a surprise because you've seen this group do this."
Despite the fact that the Irish were 13-point favorites, Brey called Boston University a Big East-level team and believes that the game will be good experience for the tough conference slate.
"I'm glad we were in one of these and found a way to win it because I know in league play we're going to be in this stuff a bunch," he said.
Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney was equally impressed with the play of BU.
"They were throwing in some tough, tough shots, credit them," McAlarney said. "They're going to make the Tournament, they're going to win their league. They're a great team."
LOUD CROWD: The Joyce Center crowd was the loudest that it has been all year and that helped carry the Irish to victory in the end.
Brey contacted the students to remind them that they would not be back for a home game until the Jan. 24 matchup with Connecticut when ESPN's Gameday crew comes to town.
"I e-mailed our students late in the week. I said, ‘We're not going to see you until Gameday. We need you Saturday night.'" Brey said. "Our overall crowd, the last six minutes and defensive possessions when they're loud, it helps and makes us believe and it does rattle other teams. That was a key tonight, that really helped us."
The players said that they fed off the crowd.
"That was a great crowd for us," Luke Harangody said. "It gave us an extra boost out there at the end."
"This is our home court. The record, the streak is in the back of our minds," McAlarney said. "We don't want to go out with a loss here. We feed off their energy. They were great tonight."
With the win the Notre Dame home win streak moved to 41 games. Brey admitted that it is becoming a heavier burden with each win, but that it gives his team confidence.
"It's a little bit of a burden, quite frankly. I think about it all of the time," he said. "It's a confidence thing for them and that's what's important. I think they really believe that they'll figure it out here, quite frankly they have over this streak."
Tory Jackson cautioned that the Irish will need to win home games against Delaware State, Savannah State, Georgetown and Seton Hall while the students are on break.
"We've got to learn to do this together, this group in here," Jackson said.
REBOUNDING STILL A STRUGGLE: A familiar problem was behind the Irish's first-half struggles. Boston University outrebounded Notre Dame 29-16 in the first half, including a 16-4 edge on the offensive glass, giving BU 10 second-chance points.
Brey said that rebounding will be a point of emphasis all year.
"It's always a concern," he said. "I got on them at halftime and we miss old Rob Kurz in there right now. I mean it's something we're going to have to come back and address. We were a little better in the second half and that's why we won the game, but it's going to be a concern."
The Irish had a 21-15 rebounding lead in the second half and Harangody credited Brey with energizing him at halftime. Harangody and the crowd got excited when he struggled with a Terrier defender for a loose ball early in the second half.
"Against a team like this, that just kind of started a little fire up in me to go out there and take control of the boards," Harangody said. "Right away on the first possession having got tangled up with one of their players, I think I set the tone for the second half for us."
FREE THROWS COME BACK: Another concern for Notre Dame early this season has been free throw shooting and although the Irish hit just three of six in the first half, they converted 11 of 13 in the second half to seal the win.
"We were better from the line at key times," Brey said. "We got the right guys to the line and made some big ones and that's a key."
ROTATION ROTATES: Harangody suffered a cut on his right cheek in the second minute of the game that caused him to take a seat. The Irish starting lineup did not play together again until 10 minutes later and then only for four more minutes.
The Irish went with a smaller lineup for much of the second half.
"We played small because they don't really have two big guys," Brey said. "It's hard to play two big guys together because they really play a 3-man in the 4-spot. We played Ayers as our 4-man many times, we rotated that way."
Brey was proud of the way that Peoples played as a backup guard.
"I thought Jon Peoples gave us very good minutes. We've been after him to give us more," he said. "I thought he defended fabulously. I'm not worried about his scoring, but he was alert and he helped us guard good guards today and we needed him to do that."
LOOSE BALLS: The Terriers made a major error late in the game when the Irish were milking the clock. Notre Dame got the ball with exactly 1:00 left in the game with a three-point lead. Brey instructed his players to run the clock down and Lowe fouled McAlarney with nine seconds left on the shot clock. McAlarney made both free throws to seal the game… 2009 Notre Dame signee forward Mike Broghammer of Orono, Minnesota is visiting campus and was in attendance.