A confident St. Francis team gave the Irish all it could handle for the better part of the first half, but ultimately had no answer for Irish All American forward Luke Harangody in Monday's 95 to 72 Notre Dame victory at the Purcell Pavilion.
Deadlocked at seven at the game's first official's timeout, the Irish reeled off 12 consecutive points as junior Ben Hansbrough drained his second 3-point bucket of the contest, then found a cutting Tim Abromaitis for two points underneath. Harangody sandwiched a free throw between two shots from beyond the arc to stake the Irish to an 19-7 advantage.
Hansbrough, who hit all four of his 3-point attempts in Notre Dame's 86-65 season-opening win vs. North Florida on Sunday, began the season 6-6 from beyond the arc before finally missing his seventh attempt of the year late in the first half.
St. Francis hung close throughout the first half with a deadeye (7 of 11) performance from beyond the arc and enough penetration to keep the Irish defense off balance. Senior forward Cedric Latimer led the Red Flash's opening half effort with 12 points on 5-7 from the field in just 13 minutes.
Coach Don Friday gave seven players at least 11 minutes of playing time with 10 Red Flash seeing action in the first 20 minutes.
Notre Dame maintained its double digit advantage (31-20) through the 7:32 mark at which point Tyrone Nash picked up a needless third foul and the visitors began chipping into the lead, drawing close at 35-30 with 5:12 remaining
Abromaitis traded 3-point buckets with St. Francis and Notre Dame took a 45-38 lead into the break. The redshirt-junior forward scored a career-high 17 points on 6-10 shooting from the field and a 2-2 effort from the charity stripe.
Abromaitis scored 12 points in the first half with most of his success coming on the perimeter before he began attacking inside in the second stanza.
"I hit a couple in the first half and they started focusing on me a bit," Abromaitis observed of his move toward a more physical second half approach. "If I was the 3-man (small forward) or even the 4-man (power forward) I knew I had an opportunity to get in there and get some loose balls and that got me going a bit."
The Red Flash picked up where they left off in the first, drilling a deep jumper and another 3-point effort from the corner to begin the second half, cutting the Irish advantage to five, 47-42. But well-rounded Latimer (12 points on seven shots in 18 minutes) picked up his fourth foul near the 19-minute mark and the Irish immediately went on a 13-5 run and held onto a an 11-point advantage through the official 12-minute timeout, 66-55.
The Red Flash finished an impressive 13 of 19 from beyond the arc but the Irish answered with a 12-23 performance from downtown to offset the damage.
With its tallest starter standing 6'6" the Red Flash had no answer for Harangody scored regularly from the low block, patient drives, mid-range jumpers and a 3-6 effort beyond the arc as the Irish slowly pulled away.
"They're athletic and quick and they knocked shots down, so you have to give (them credit)," Harangody observed. "But we have to do a better job of communicating and getting out on shooters."
Harangody led all scorers with 27 points and added 9 boards in 36 minutes of floor time.
Hansbrough supplemented Harangody's 27 with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists in 36 minutes of action and drilled his third 3-point shot of the game to give the Irish a 74-60 lead at the 7:47 mark. His fourth and final triple put the contest out of reach, 83-65 with 4:05 remaining.
Senior leader Tory Jackson scored 9 points while adding 9 assists and 7 rebounds in 37 minutes. Jackson moved into fifth place on the school's all-time assists list (525) and needs just two to pass currrent assistant coach Martin Ingelsby (1997-2001).
St. Francis placed four players in double figures, led by freshman guard Umar Shannon's 18, while senior swingman Devin Sweetney added 16 for the visitors.
Harangody moved past former standout shooting guard Matt Carroll (1999-2003) into seventh place on the program's all-time scoring list. With 1,869 points, Harangody needs just 43 to pass Troy Murphy for the sixth spot, a feat he should accomplish in a Sunday evening matchup vs. Liberty.
Notre Dame's next game is Thursday when they host dangerous Long Beach State at 7:30.
Key Notre Dame Contributions:
Luke Harangody: 27 points (8-17/3-6/8-11), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers in 36 minutes.
Tory Jackson: 9 points (4-8/1-3/0-0), 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover, in 37 minutes.
Ben Hansbrough: 18 points (5-10/4-6/4-8), 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 turnover, in 36 minutes.
Jonathan Peoples: 4 points (2-4/0-1/0-0), 1 rebound, 0 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover, in 24 minutes.
Tyrone Nash: 11 points (5-6/0-0/1-1), 3 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls in 18 minutes
Tim Abromaitis: 17 points (6-10/3-6/2-2), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, in 27 minutes.
Carleton Scott: 5 points (2-2/1-1/0-0), 4 rebounds, 1 steal, in 16 minutes.
Mike Broghammer: 2 points (1-1) in 2 minutes.
Jack Cooley: 0 points (0-2) in 2 minutes.
Joey Brooks: 2 points (1-1) in 2 minutes.