Breezing by the Bison

Irish bench aids 101-point effort vs. Bucknell as Notre Dame finishes 11-2 heading into league play.

Notre Dame closed its non-conference slate with a flourish Tuesday night, handling overmatched Bucknell, 101-69 at the Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish jumped on the Bison early, racing to leads of 17-4 and 36-19 before entering intermission with a commanding 49-22 advantage.

Ben Hansbrough sparked the Irish early with 14 points on perfect shooting (4-4 FG and 2-2 FT) in just 10 first half minutes en route to a 16-point, 5 assist evening despite missing practice this week with the flu. Junior Tim Abromaitis continued his consistent production, finishing with 15 points on 6-11 shooting from the field (3-6 from beyond the arc).

"I've been able to sneak down there," Abromaitis offered when reminded he tends to do most of his damage deep in the corner. "Tory (Jackson) and Ben do a great job of finding me and I just feel comfortable with it.

"Ben does a great job of getting to the middle with his drives and when my guy leaves me or loses me it just leaves me open for the shot."

Irish head coach Mike Brey was proud of his team's offensive efficiency, a staple of most victories over the last four seasons.

"To have 15 assists at halftime…I don't know if people realize how efficient this team is offensively. I don't think a lot of teams play like this – unselfishly and with a feel for the game. Those guys really have a lot of fun playing together. It was a joy to watch. "

Moving up the charts

Forward Luke Harangody led the Irish with 20 points (8-12 from the field) and 11 rebounds while adding five assists. The effort tied the decorated senior with former Irish star LaPhonso Ellis (1988-92) for a program record 56th career double-double. Harangody also moved past Basketball Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley (1973-76) into second-place in field goals made and ahead of Ellis into third on the program's all-time rebounding list (1,078).

With a minimum of 19 and likely at least 20 games remaining, Harangody needs 240 rebounds and 423 points to exit the University as the career leader in both categories.

As well, senior point guard Tory Jackson became the 50th Irish player to score 1,000 career points, and joined elite guards Chris Thomas, David Rivers, and Elmer Bennett as the program's only players to dish out more than 500 assists while topping the hallowed 1,000-point plateau.

"I'm thrilled for Tory Jackson," Brey stated. "When you score 1,000 points you've had one heck of a college career. You look at 1,000-point scorers at any college…that's a guy who's been reliable."

Bench Brigade

With the outcome never in doubt, head coach Mike Brey was able to go to his bench midway through the second half, and freshman swing man Joey Brooks responded with an aggressive 12 minutes, finishing with a career-high 12 points including a 6-6 effort from the foul line.

"Anytime I get an opportunity I want to make the most of it," Brooks stated. "I put a lot of hours in to try to produce (when called upon) and tonight coach gave me an opportunity and I played pretty well.

"That's what kind of game I have," Brooks continued. "I really want to be aggressive on both ends of the floor and Coach Brey is always stressing ‘defense, defense, defense' so I try to get into the opposing players and ended up with a steal, and that really sparked everything that happened."

Freshman Jack Cooley conquered some initial jitters to finish with career bests with five points and eight rebounds in 11 minutes.

"It was fun to get out there. We all practice hard together so it's fun to get out there," Cooley offered. "Sometimes if you don't play you get a little excited to get in there and it's good to use a couple of defensive possessions to get into the flow."

The team's third freshman contributor, 6'9" 245-pound forward Mike Broghammer tallied five points in nine minutes including his first career three-point bucket.

"I think it was great to get some of those young guys 10 minutes," Brey observed post game. "I thought that was great for Jack, and Joey, and Mike…those guys have been busting their backsides in practice and to let them play 10 minutes on that floor and get a feel for it (is gratifying)."

The Irish closed out their non-conference schedule at 11-2 and are in good position according to the program's leader.

"I still think we're a work in progress; we're not a finished product," Brey stated. "I've said it all along and I've told our guys that I think this team, more than any of my more recent teams, has a chance to get better through February."

Is part of that work in progress looking for an eighth, ninth, or tenth contributor over the course of the season?

"I think you're open all the time," Brey answered regarding the possible expansion of his current seven-man rotation. "I think the thing I really wanted to get to is those seven guys feeling good playing with and off of each other (in various combinations) and I think we've achieved some of that.

"We're going to need other bodies. Those two big bodies (Broghammer and Cooley) are interesting guys as a lot of size starts coming our way (in the Big East). Really Jack Cooley the last week has been pretty impressive, playing against Harangody and Nash and sometimes thumping them pretty good.

"But certainly those seven will play the bulk of the minutes right now."

Notre Dame has an eight-day break before opening their Big East season with the Providence Friars on Wednesday, December 30 in South Bend.


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