The Bengals' first-half efficiency (55 percent shooting and just three turnovers) disappeared in the second stanza as the Irish asserted themselves in the paint and turned up the intensity on the defensive perimeter and on the glass.
"We knew we weren't going to be able to rebound with Notre Dame," stated Bengals head coach Joe O'Brien. "Demetrius Monroe is giving up about 50 pounds to Luke Harangody…everybody gives up something to Harangody.
"I was proud of our first half effort," O'Brien offered. "I think we tracked seven turnovers in our first nine possessions of the second half.
"We knew we were going to have to be very efficient and limit turnovers."
The Irish were led by another workmanlike effort from senior forward Luke Harangody who scored 27 points and added 12 boards in 31 minutes of action. Harangody scored the first basket of the contest (19:38), a bucket which made him the seventh player in program history to score 2,000 points and the first among the group to also exceed 1,000 rebounds, a feat he accomplished last week vs. Liberty.
Harangody now trails Austin Carr, Adrian Dantley, Chris Thomas, Pat Garrity, and David Rivers on the school's all-time scoring list. The senior from Schererville passed Troy Murphy for sixth-place during the contest and needs just 34 points take over for Rivers at fifth all-time.
"It's very nice, it's good to be put with the names of the top (scorers) who have gone to this school," Harangody commented post-game. "I was just told I (passed) Troy Murphy and to be put in the same sentence as him is a great thing."
After falling behind early, Idaho State went on an 11-4 run to take the lead heading into the 12:00 timeout. The first half was played at a high pace with neither team bothering the other defensively and the Bengals taking their final lead of the contest, 29-28 on a dunk by senior forward Renaldo Little. The Irish responded, scoring 12 of the next 18 points but the Bengals again closed the gap with a last possession bucket to trail by just three, 40-37 heading into the break.
Notre Dame received ISU's best shot but regrouped at halftime thanks to the senior leadership of point guard Tory Jackson.
"Coming out as men; defending as men, getting stops right away," Jackson explained while comparing the team's second half effort to that of the Long Beach State win 12 days prior. "Coach switched into ‘21' (a defensive set in which Jackson pressures the ball at halfcourt) and we did a good job of being ready, getting up under them (pressuring them) and they turned the ball over a lot and we took advantage of it."
Irish head coach Mike Brey concurred with his captain's assertion of Notre Dame's first half defensive effort.
"We were better defensively to start the second half," Brey offered. "In the first half I didn't have us out on the ball enough and that's on me. They kind of got comfortable and made some shots."
Along with a renewed defensive focus (an early pattern at home this season vs. a collection of college basketball also-rans), the Irish turned to the senior tandem of Harangody and Jackson and the pair scored seven consecutive points to begin the second half. After the visitors cut the Irish lead to five at 47-42, the Irish exploded with an 18-2 run, keyed by a fast-break alley-oop feed from Harangody to junior forward Carleton Scott, who deftly guided the high pass into the hoop with his fully extended left hand.
Harangody, Jackson, and senior transfer Ben Hansbrough continued from there, scoring or assisting on each of the next 16 points as the Irish pulled away, leading by as many as 21 points late in the contest.
Scott, playing his fourth consecutive solid game off the bench, finished with eight points on 4-4 shooting (including three mid-range jump shots) while fellow redshirt-junior Tim Abromaitis added nine points and four rebounds of his own in 23 minutes. It was Abromaitis' first home game this season in which he scored below double digits, but both forwards have emerged as crucial cogs in Brey's seven-man rotation.
"Scott and Abromaitis continue to give us just a great lift. I'm really please with their development.
"I thought Carleton, tonight, again defended and got some deflections. The problem he had early in the season was he was worried too much about his shot. Tonight he really didn't hunt his shot but he (shot) 4-4; it just kind of came to him.
"We need him to continue to embrace that role. It's really important for us."
Also involved Tuesday night was freshman big man Mike Broghammer, who played the final nine minutes while contributing 3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 fouls and an assist.
Notre Dame (7-1) will receive four days of much-needed rest before returning to the court Sunday to take on Central Florida (7-1) in South Bend.