NOTRE DAME, Ind. – After needing just about all 40 minutes to claim victory in its last game out, Notre Dame was able to put Saturday night's home game against Delaware State away early.
The Irish jumped out to an early lead and coasted to an 88-50 win to move to 8-2 on the season with one contest left before Big East Conference play starts.
Delaware State (2-13) was led by Kris Douse and Marcus Neal, who had 11 apiece.
The Hornets tried to slow the game down by taking their time on offense, but the Notre Dame defense made them scrap those plans and carried the Irish to victory.
"We tried (to slow it down) but their defensive intensity forced us to speed up the tempo and they got their wish and got some good shots in transition," Delaware State head coach Greg Jackson said.
Notre Dame opened the game with a 16-2 run and forced Delaware State into misses on eight of its first nine field goal attempts. The Hornets' Francisco Sandidge scored a hoop on their first possession, but Delaware State did not score again until there was 10:37 left in the half.
"It's a test of your concentration because you're having to guard a team that's holding the ball so then when you get the ball back can you be good offensively and not take a bad shot?" Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "Because if you do, you're coming all of the way back and having to guard again for a long time. I thought we got good shots early and got into our scoring mode."
Brey reminded his team of its slow start in its last game against Boston University.
"I used last Saturday as a teaching point where it was 15-6 before we woke up," said Brey. "I said, ‘Let's get into people and defend right away and rebound.' Part of the 15-6 was not only defensively. It was some bad shots offensively. It was not being efficient offensively. I thought we were very efficient offensively to start the game."
Harangody talked about how the Irish use their defense to help their offense.
"Getting in them on the defensive end and with that comes good offense," Harangody said. "As you can see that's how we came out and we set the tone for the whole game."
Delaware State was able to cut the lead to 20-10, but back-to-back Harangody buckets and back-to-back three-pointers from Ayers followed by a McAlarney trifecta pushed the lead to 33-12 with less than three minutes to go in the half.
Donald Johnson and Terrence Parkes knocked down three-pointers for the Hornets in the final two minutes, but a Harangody dunk gave the Irish took a 39-21 at the half. Harangody led all first-half scorers with 16 points on seven of eight shooting while Ayers added 12 and McAlarney chipped in with eight.
Neal was the high man for Delaware State with five first-half points.
The Hornets scored seven of the first 13 points in the second half, but the Irish went on a 12-0 run to take a 57-28 advantage and grab control of the game for good.
Notre Dame committed just six fouls as a team and Delaware State had just two free throw attempts in the game. Notre Dame handed out 25 assists on offense while turning the ball over just four times.
Ayers continued to show that he is a viable option as a third scorer if teams elect to take either Harangody or McAlarney away.
"They started out in a box-and-one on McAlarney for the first four minutes and when Ayers gets looks, he's got to keep taking them," Brey said. "He's going to get looks and he's got to be ready to step up and knock them down. He's going to be in that position a bunch."
Ayers was seven of 13 from the field and four of eight from behind the arc and said that his confidence is growing with each game.
"My teammates are able to find me the ball and I'm able to get my feet set and just shoot it," Ayers said. "Not worry about anything and just have a lot of confidence knowing it's going to go in."
Jackson admitted that with McAlarney on the outside and Harangody down low, the Irish just had too much offensive firepower for his team.
"They have one of the better shooters I've seen in the country in a long time," he said. "It's hard to try and contain him and then try to contain the inside kid as well. They can hurt you from the inside and they can hurt you from the outside."