NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame men's basketball team will enter Big East conference play on a high note after defeating Savannah State 81-49 at the Joyce Center on Monday night.
The Irish outrebounded Savannah State 44-21 and had a more physical presence which led to converting 23 of 28 free throw attempts while the Tigers made all of their free throws, but shot just eight.
The Irish have won three straight games since losing to Ohio State in the Hartford Hall of Fame Showcase on Dec. 6. The Irish will open Big East play having won nine of their first 11 games, with the only losses coming to the undefeated Buckeyes and consensus No. 1 North Carolina.
The Irish open conference play on New Year's Eve with an 8 p.m. game at DePaul.
"We're in the position that we need to be in," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "We have so much power on our schedule coming up, that will make or break us as far getting into the NCAA Tournament and doing what we want and need to do."
Notre Dame did not get off to as fast of a start against the Tigers as it did against Delaware State, but the result was not much different. Savannah State's defense bothered Notre Dame early.
"I think their defense early, until they got a little fatigued, really bothered us. They flew at every shot. They blocked a couple of jump shots," Brey said. "I give them credit, they really kind of mauled us a little bit."
But the Irish wrestled control of the game in the first half when they went on a 21-7 run midway through to take a 32-15 lead. That stretch included two free throws after a technical foul was called on the Savannah State bench.
The Irish took a 37-21 lead into the half after an Ayers' three-pointer in the final seconds. Harangody was just 3 of 11 from the field in the first half, but posted a double-double in the first 20 minutes with 14 points and 11 rebounds. McAlarney got his 1,000th point in the first half and went into the locker room with eight points.
Linton and Anthony Jones were tops for the Tigers at halftime with four points apiece.
Notre Dame never gave Savannah State a chance in the second half, jumping out to a 52-29 lead six minutes after intermission and boosted that lead to 61-33 a few minutes later. The Irish were able to coast to the 81-49 victory.