Six Shooters

Each of Notre Dame's five starters scored in double figures while top sub Jonathan Peoples added nine in Saturday's 11-point victory over visiting UCLA.

During his media day preamble in October, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey mused that despite the loss of four senior contributors, the 2009-10 Irish managed to "stay old" with a senior transfer and two redshirt juniors joining the team's rotation. The veteran Irish finally had a chance to show their age, pulling away from UCLA today, 84 to 73 at the Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame's seven-man attack produced its most balanced effort of the non-conference season, with six players contributing between nine and 23 points.

Per usual, the team-high 23 was produced by senior forward Luke Harangody, who finished the evening 9-19 from the field despite failing to notch his first basket through the game's first 12 minutes of action.

Senior point guard Tory Jackson (10 points, seven rebounds, seven assists in 39 minutes) was pleased with his squad's balance, offensively.

"In the first half, Harangody wasn't knocking down shots, but Jonathan Peoples came in (and scored 9 points).

"Abromaitis wasn't doing too well in the first half but he picked it up in the second," Jackson correctly observed. "My job is just to make sure all these guys get in some kind of rhythm. And on the defensive end, stay in position and be aggressive just like we are on the offensive end."

The Irish buckled down defensively, at least after the game's first 10 minutes, a period in which the Bruins opened up a 26-20 advantage. The quick start didn't surprise Brey.

"I knew they'd come out smoking. Its fun sometimes being on the road loose with nothing to lose. And they hadn't shot it well (over the course of the season) but you could throw all those numbers out.

"They got rolling and made some big ones but we did a good job of staying poised and weathering it. Eventually we got into our offensive rhythm and got a couple key stops in a row."

The bulk of that rhythm was provided by senior guard Ben Hansbrough, who scored the home team's first nine points (including a crowd-pleasing four-point play) while continuing his penchant for finding the open man cross-court. And for those of you late to the 2009 season, that man is usually redshirt-junior Tim Abromaitis.

"I always see him," Hansbrough answered when asked about Notre Dame's best off-the-ball scorer. "He's just a great spot-up shooter and he's easier to see than others."

Hansbrough continued to focus on early penetration, a method of attack absent from last year's Irish offense.

"I think that's probably my best strength: getting in the lane, creating, seeing everything and coach Brey wants me doing that," Hansbrough stated.

One of Brey's admitted pre-game concerns was the ability of Abromaitis and classmate Tyrone Nash to respond in their first extended action in front of a national TV audience. The pair combined for 28 points and 13 rebounds, a performance that must be duplicated often if the Irish are to contend in the Big East.

"I was really interested to see what Nash and Abromaitis would be like when the lights were bright: this was the first time the lights were bright and I think Tyrone Nash answered that bell. Loudly. I'm very proud of him and I think we have something developing there," Brey stated.

"Abro didn't have a good first half but it tells you a lot about the kid that he bounced back and made some big plays and big shots."

The Irish took a 40-36 lead into the break and immediately pounced on the visitors to open the second half, again relying on Hansbrough's aggression offensively, as the senior opened the second stanza with a drive and dish to Nash for an easy dunk.

Hansbrough followed with a cross-court assist for a wing three by Abromaitis before nailing a deep trey of his own up top to give the Irish a 48-39 advantage.

Notre Dame held that edge for the bulk of the second half, leading by as many as 12 points and never fewer than six for the final 17 minutes.

UCLA sophomore Malcolm Lee kept the Bruins in the hunt, leading all scorers with 29 points. Sharp-shooting senior guard Michael Roll added 19 on a 7-10 effort including 5-8 from deep.

Abromaitis supported Harangody's team-high with 17 points of his own, 14 in the second half. Nash added 11 points and eight boards while Hansbrough tallied 14 (on seven attempts) with four assists and no turnovers.

Bruins coach Ben Howland knew his opponent's strength entering the contest and came away impressed with ND's execution.

"They're a hard team to defend. It'd be a lot easier to defend them if Harangody wasn't in the game because you have to commit two guys to him," Howland offered half-jokingly.

"They're just such a good shooting team, when you breakdown (defensively) they make you pay."

The veteran coach of three Final Fours saved his highest compliment for Harangody.

"He's one of the finest players in the country. He's a once-in-a-lifetime guy (at a program). For me it's good to see a guy come back for his senior year. He made the right decision and I think he's going to benefit. Next year he'll be in the NBA."

Notre Dame wraps up its non-conference slate Tuesday when Bucknell visits the Purcell Pavilion. The squad's first Big East game will be Wednesday, December 30 vs. the visiting Friars of Providence. Top Stories