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No. 9 Irish blowout Briar Cliff in first action

Chris Hine | Monday, November 3, 2008

Let the chest-bumping, fist-pumping and point-scoring begin.

No. 9 Notre Dame opened its season with a 103-64 exhibition win over Briar Cliff Friday night in front of a half-packed Joyce Center.

Five Notre Dame players scored in double figures, with senior forward Ryan Ayers leading the way with 21.

Ayers shot 8-for-15 for the night, but unlike last year, when 64 percent of Ayers’ field goals came from behind the 3-point line, a majority of his buckets, six, came from inside the 3-point line. And Ayers wasted little time asserting himself – with the game tied at 2-2, Ayers drove to the hoop for a layup to give Notre Dame a 4-2 lead.

“I just want to be more aggressive out there,” Ayers said. “I think that’ll give me a good jump start if I can take it to the hole hit a pull-up or take it all the way. My three-ball didn’t fall for me at times tonight.”

Coach Mike Brey added: “I thought he was a little more selfish about getting his shot. He’s been a guy in the past that will turn stuff down, he’ll turn shots down. We need him to be a little bit greedier.”

Junior forward Luke Harangody put up his usual double-double – 16 points and 11 rebounds – while junior point guard Tory Jackson had 18 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and five steals. Jackson also knocked down a couple of mid-range jumpers, something he said he worked to improve in the off-season. Most of Jackson’s production came during a 23-4 Notre Dame run beginning with 11:53 in the second half that gave Notre Dame an 86-54 lead. Jackson said he began to play better after receiving a talking-to from Brey during a timeout in the second half.

“I think he was so wired to play and we are so reliant on his energy and his voice and his juice. I watched him in the introductions and he was just so excited to play,” Brey said of Jackson. “He missed guys in transition in the first half. He made some plays offensively, some turnovers, decision with the ball, I had not seen that in a year. It was almost like a freshman. I got on him in the one timeout and it was back to how he’s been practicing. Easy plays, simple plays.”

Jackson said Brey’s words helped him refocus.

“I started off sluggish,” Jackson said. “I was just happy to be back out there and didn’t have my head in the game. Coach got on me, did what he had to do and I bounced back … He got on me really bad, basically got me back together and I needed that.”

Briar Cliff kept things close early, shooting 8-for-19 from 3-point land in the first half to head into halftime down 12. With 9:28 left in the first half, Briar Cliff was only trailing 20-19, but a 12-3 Notre Dame run put some distance between the Irish and the Chargers.

During that run and with Jackson struggling, junior guard Jonathan Peoples came off the bench and added four points, grabbed two rebounds and had a steal.

“There’s no question, if [Jackson’s] not really in a good flow, we struggle a little bit. That’s where [Peoples] came to the rescue,” Brey said. “He’s a veteran guard that can play either spot. He’s a real calming factor.”

To round out the scoring, McAlarney netted 11 on 4-for-12 shooting and senior forward Luke Zeller had 12 points and six rebounds.

Notes:

uSenior forward Zach Hillesland did not play. He is out with plantar fasciitis.

uHillesland, Ayers, McAlarney and Zeller were named captains for this year’s team.

uBrey said he tried to incorporate all the different defenses Notre Dame would normally play, but Briar Cliff’s shooting ability limited how much zone the Irish could play.

“I would’ve liked to play a little more zone, but they were shooting the thing so well from so deep, I just said, ‘You know what, we’re going to be in man tonight,’ and we played more man than maybe we would in a Big East game.”