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Men’s Basketball: Notre Dame upends IPFW in season opener

Joe Meixell | Monday, November 13, 2006

Guard Russell Carter led Notre Dame with 20 points and six rebounds, and forward Rob Kurz added 16 points and 12 rebounds as the Irish took a 32-point lead into halftime and never looked back in a 92-49 victory over IPFW Friday at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame’s 55 first-half points were the second most an Irish team has scored under Mike Brey in the coach’s previous six seasons. In the teams’ previous meeting last season at IPFW, Notre Dame held an eight-point lead at the half and won 66-64.

“I watched that tape over and over so many times,” Irish guard Kyle McAlarney said after scoring nine points on 4-of-7 shooting and adding seven assists. “And I came out, just tried to really give it to them tonight. We did a good job of that.”

Eleven months after its narrow win in Fort Wayne, Ind., Notre Dame’s youth and energy overwhelmed the veteran IPFW squad – which has nine upperclassmen on its roster – and surprised Brey, who thought the game might come down to one possession.

“I did not expect [the score] tonight. I was very worried about this game after last year,” Brey said. “They’re seniors, they’re older guys, they know how to play.”

For the third straight game – including Notre Dame’s two exhibition contests – the Irish dominated their opponent from the beginning, using suffocating ball pressure to force IPFW out of an offensive rhythm.

Notre Dame forced two of its 14 turnovers in the first six minutes using its full court press, which not only led to quick transition baskets but allowed it to settle into its offense with a comfortable lead.

“We came out on defense, we came out flying,” McAlarney said. “We didn’t want them to run their stuff and obviously they weren’t comfortable on offense, so we did a real good job of just disrupting everything they wanted to do.”

Notre Dame had four players in double figures – Carter, Kurz, forward Zach Hillesland (11 points, 12 rebounds) and forward Luke Harangody (12 points, eight rebounds). The Irish also had eight players with five or more field goal attempts.

After IPFW guard Chris Perkins hit a jumper over McAlarney, the Irish went on an 18-4 run, forcing Mastodons coach Dane Fife to use a 30-second time out. In that stretch, Kurz scored six points and grabbed five rebounds.

“You’re seeing the development of one heck of a Big East forward, you really are,” Brey said of Kurz. “Again, it’s the progression of our basketball program, a guy getting better in our program. I’m proud of him, nobody works harder than him.”

IPFW saw little improvement out of the timeout, since Notre Dame continued to apply pressure and work through offensive sets with ease. The Irish went on a final 9-2 run to close out the half as Carter scored five points in the stretch.

“Easy baskets. In the past, we’ve had a hard time getting easy baskets,” Brey said. “We’re getting some easy baskets running, on the offensive boards, and again I think its fresh guys for the most part.”

Notre Dame continued its dominance in the second half and forced IPFW into early foul trouble. The Mastodons picked up their seventh team foul just five minutes into the second half and were in the double bonus with roughly eight minutes remaining.

With 7:38 left, the Irish went on another 10-0 run to put the exclamation point on the blow out.

“We came in with the thought that we had a chance to win this basketball game, and wow were we wrong,” Fife said. “If they compete like that, they’ve got a chance in the Big East.”

Guard Colin Falls was quiet in his second straight game, scoring six points on 1-of-5 shooting. He didn’t score a basket until a 3-pointer with 3:05 left in the first half, but was active with three rebounds, two steals and two assists.

“I’m looking and I’m saying, God how do we get him involved,” Brey said. “We tried to do some things in the second half, but yet there he is in the second half, which I thought was great, he missed a couple shots and he takes a charge. That’s how great his head is.

“There’s no baggage on his part, he’s having fun playing the game, and it will come back around where there’ll be nights where he’s just going to get a lot of looks.”

Notes:

u Brey named Falls and Kurz captains before the game Friday, days after he said he was undecided about how long he would wait to make that decision. Kurz spoke after Friday’s game about the importance the distinction carries.

“It’s a great honor, and I’m really humble about it,” Kurz said. “Hopefully I can just be as good of a captain as I can. I’ve had great captains for the other two years I’ve been here and hopefully I can follow in those guys’ footsteps.”