Irish Come Out In Zone

On Friday night, Mike Brey asked his team to go out and score 95 points on Saturday, they did him one better. Actually they did him eight better as a hot start carried Notre Dame to a 103-84 win at Providence on Saturday.

Notre Dame and Providence both started Saturday's game in zones. The Friars came out in a 2-3 zone while Irish shooters came out in zones of their own in response to the Providence defense.

It was the second straight game that Notre Dame got off to a quick start, but this time the Irish made it hold up with a 103-84 victory. Notre Dame made 11 of 18 three-pointers in the first half, led by Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney, who combined for 10.

Irish head coach Mike Brey told the Notre Dame Radio Network after the game that he was just as proud of his team's early defense.

"Certainly we were in a great offensive rhythm and amazingly unselfish," he said. "I thought our defensive presence was really a key at key times."

Ayers led the team with 28 points and McAlarney added 25. Luke Harangody finished with 18 points and seven rebounds after being held to just one point in the first half.

Weyinmu Efejuku had a career-high 31 for the Friars (16-11, 8-7) and Sharaud Curry added 23.

The win puts the Irish at 15-11 overall, 6-8 in the league with four games to go and makes their goal of finishing the Big East season at .500 that much easier. Next up for the Irish is a home game against Rutgers on Wednesday and that is as far as Brey is going to look.

"We just won three of four games in the best league in America, we're really happy with that. All we want to do is try to win four of five, go home and beat Rutgers," Brey said. "Try and get to seven league games and then we'll deal with the road. We can make this very interesting and that's all we're going to talk about."

Although Providence was able to contain Harangody, Ayers and McAlarney carried the Irish in the first half by taking advantage of Providence's 2-3 zone with long-range bombs.

Ayers and McAlarney each nailed a pair of three-pointers as the Irish jumped out to a 15-6 lead just four minutes into the game. McAlarney's third three of the game gave the Irish an 18-10 lead with 14:38 left in the half, but the Friars responded with a 7-0 run to make it a one-point lead two minutes later.

Back-to-back threes from Ayers helped Notre Dame stretch its lead to 26-19 midway through the half before threes from both Ayers and McAlarney made the score 32-24 with eight minutes to go.

Providence switched out of its zone and into man-to-man, but McAlarney responded with a jumper and a layup around a Tyrone Nash bucket as the Irish opened up a 38-24 lead with six minutes to play in the half.

Notre Dame led by as many as 17 in the first half before taking a 49-37 lead into intermission. Ayers finished the half with 18 points and McAlarney had 17. Harangody had just one point in the first half.

Curry led the Friars with 16 first-half points, but Providence made just two of its 11 three-point attempts.

The Irish led 57-41 after another Ayers three-pointer before the Friars went on an 11-2 run that featured seven points from Curry to cut the margin to 59-52 with 13 minutes to play.

Notre Dame received boosts from unlikely sources as Zach Hillesland made a jumper followed by a three-pointer from Jonathan Peoples and a Peoples' three-point play that made the score 67-54.

Peoples led a strong effort from Notre Dame's bench along with Nash and Luke Zeller.

"Peoples comes off and handles the ball, he scores, he did a little bit of everything," Brey said. "Nash's toughness around the basket and physicality really helped us and Zeller gave us good minutes too."

Efejuku tried to carry the Friars, scoring 26 of his 31 points in the second half, but the Irish maintained that double-digit lead throughout the second half.

Providence tried to pressure Notre Dame late in the second half, but that just resulted in more transition opportunities for the Irish. The Irish reached the century mark on a free throw from Ayers with 1:22 left. Top Stories