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Men’s Basketball: Lewis gives Irish a quick scare

Bobby Griffin | Friday, November 4, 2005

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey planned to experiment with a variety of on-court combinations in the team’s first exhibition game Thursday night. In a 59-40 Irish win over Division II Lewis University at the Joyce Center, his plan quickly became a reality.

Nine minutes into the game, Brey further departed from his starting lineup of Chris Quinn, Colin Falls, Russell Carter, Rob Kurz and Torin Francis, adding a 6-foot-1 freshman point guard into the mix.

It was a familiar look for the Irish. Kyle McAlarney was now occupying Chris Thomas’ spot in last season’s small backcourt alongside Quinn.

“I wanted to look at that because I think we are going to have to play that way, maybe to spread people out,” Brey said. “You’re worried about it defensively … but [Quinn and McAlarney] are so good with the ball.”

McAlarney impressed the home crowd in his first game, drilling a 3-pointer minutes after stepping on the court. He had seven points on 2-for-5 shooting, three assists and three steals, and showed an ability to get to the basket to create scoring opportunities.

But with the variety of looks and the integration of new players into the lineup, Notre Dame started off slowly Thursday night, shooting 9-for-36 (25 percent) in the first half. The Irish led Lewis by only one point, 22-21, heading into halftime.

“If Quinn and Falls shoot like that, I don’t care who we play, we are probably going to get beat,” Brey said.

Quinn and Falls combined to shoot 7-for-24 from the floor for the game and just 3-for-13 from three-point range.

It wasn’t until the second half, when the Irish went on a 16-2 run with 17:39 remaining, that Notre Dame pulled away from its Division II opponent.

The Irish began forcing turnovers and creating fast breaks during the stretch, which was highlighted by five points from Carter, who started his second career game with the Irish.

His play impressed Brey, who said the junior’s playing time would depend on his defense and ability to integrate into the offense.

“I thought he was disciplined defensively for the most part tonight,” Brey said. “That’s what he’s got to do first, and then be good with the ball and easy to play with. I thought in the second half he was a little smoother to play with.”

Carter finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting.

Carter’s two-handed dunk off an outlet pass from Colin Falls with 6:58 remaining in the second half put the stamp on the Irish victory.

“We felt that we had to get key stops, like three stops in a row … to really break it open,” Carter said. “We just pulled together and did the job.”

Notre Dame’s rough offensive start forced it to rely on defense to keep the game from slipping away. The Irish played predominately man-to-man, but Brey refused to commit to a specific defensive identity for the remainder of the season.

“We’re going to play a lot of zone,” Brey said. “We may become mostly a zone team, I don’t know. It was nice to see when we had to dig in. We dug in pretty good at man-to-man.

“It was good because in the first half we weren’t flowing offensively. We had to rely on defending because nothing was going in on the other end.”

Though Brey said before Wednesday’s practice “everybody should be available,” forward Rick Cornett did not dress for Thursday’s game.

Brey used all of his available scholarship players in the game, most notably McAlarney and former-McDonald’s All-American freshman Luke Zeller.

Zeller looked impressive on both ends of the floor, showcasing his ability to rebound, block shots and stroke the mid-range jumper.

He had four points on 2-for-5 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots.

“I thought Zeller got into a nice rhythm,” Brey said.

Notre Dame will play its final exhibition game Nov. 11 against Quincy College at the Joyce Center.

Notes:

u On the first Lewis offensive possession after McAlarney checked into the game, the freshman ran into a screen near the opposite foul line and fell on the ground. He immediately got back up and bumped the opposing player who had welcomed him to the college level.

“I don’t really let anybody push me around like that, no matter how big or how strong they are,” McAlarney said. “That’s just how my dad taught me and how I was brought up. It’s part of the game though, to get knocked over like that. But its also part of the game to get right back up and hustle back.”