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Men’s Basketball: Hoopsters clip Eagles’ wings

Fran Tolan | Monday, December 3, 2007

Kyle McAlarney scored more than 20 points for the third straight game and Notre Dame tied a program-best Joyce Center winning streak in a 76-65 victory over Eastern Michigan Saturday.

It was the 24th straight win at home for the Irish, which equals a mark set by the 1973-74 teams. But Irish coach Mike Brey told his players not to rest on their laurels.

“I said, ‘Congratulations, I’m gonna shake your hand next Saturday when you break [the record],” Brey said. “But we’re very proud of that, [the players] are very proud of that, they should be very proud of it. I’m very happy for them.”

After pouring in 25 points against Colgate last Monday, McAlarney dropped 21 on 8-of-10 shooting in the triumph over Eastern Michigan.

“My confidence is real high and I’m learning as the games go on how to move without the ball better,” McAlarney said. “My teammates have been doing a great job finding me. I have to credit my teammates for getting me those open shots.”

After jumping out to an early 17-7 lead, Notre Dame fell behind 21-20 with 9:59 left in the first half when Eastern Michigan guard Carlos Medlock made an uncontested lay-up.

The Irish then went on a 7-0 run to take a lead they would not relinquish. Sophomore forward Luke Harangody nailed a 15-foot jumper to give the Irish a one-point edge. After Easten Michigan turned the ball over on its next possession, Irish guard Ryan Ayers drilled a 3-pointer. Harangody, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, hit another jumper the next time down the floor to make the score 27-21.

Eastern Michigan pulled within three points of the Irish with 4:35 left in the opening half, but the Irish closed the period with eight unanswered points. With the clock running down in the half, Notre Dame guard Tory Jackson rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Medlock and started a three-on-two break for the Irish. Jackson eventually found Ayers, who spotted up and made a 3-pointer to give the Irish a 43-32 lead going into halftime.

“The shot right before halftime was a big-time shot,” Brey said. “That really gave us great momentum.”

After the break, the Irish continued their run and poured in six more points before Eastern Michigan scored again.

“We ended the first half and started the second half really well, which I thought was the key to the game,” Brey said.

Eastern Michigan never pulled within 10 points for the remainder of the contest.

Brey said he was especially happy with his team’s defense against the Eagles’ perimeter threats, especially senior guard Jesse Bunkley.

“The key for us was to not let them get going from the 3-point line and I think we did a great job,” Brey said.

The coach commended Ayers for locking down Bunkley, who came into the contest shooting 44.7 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 15.4 points per game. The Eagles star did not attempt a long-range shot against the Irish and finished with only six points.

“That’s maybe the thing I’m maybe most excited about – [Ayers] on Bunkley, absolutely taking Bunkley away,” Brey said. “Bunkley’s the guy that makes them confident and really gets them going.”

Eastern Michigan sophomore forward Justin Dobbins scored a career-high 26 points. But it wasn’t enough.

“The flow of the game was excellent,” Brey said. “The guys did a heck of a job tonight.”