Men’s Basketball: Ayers drops 35 in rout of South Dakota
Chris Hine | Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The Irish sent a warning shot, actually 19 shots, across the bows of their opponents with their 102-76 win over South Dakota – play a zone and Ryan Ayers or Kyle McAlarney will sink you.
That’s exactly what the two housemates did to the Coyotes in the first half Tuesday night at the Joyce Center.
Ayers hit 7-of-10 treys in the first half, 9-of-14 for the game, on his way to scoring a career-high 35 points.
“I just felt a little more relaxed more calm,” Ayers said. “I just felt more relaxed, more calm. My teammates got me the ball and once I hit one shot, I just kept rolling … I had a great feel, every time I followed through I knew it was going in.”
A bearded McAlarney continued his hot shooting – he hit a combined 19 three-pointers in Notre Dame’s previous two games – with seven threes and 27 points. In all, the Irish hit 19 three-pointers in 37 attempts, setting a Notre Dame and Joyce Center record for three-pointers made.
“I should’ve bought a ticket tonight,” Irish coach Mike Brey said with a laugh after the game. “All I did was sub guys.”
The onslaught began on Notre Dame’s first possession, when forward Luke Zeller, who finished with eight points and six rebounds, spotted up outside against South Dakota’s 2-3 zone and knocked down a three. Ayers followed with a corner jumper – one of the rare two-pointers that he took. Then McAlarney hit a three and Ayers hit his first from beyond the arc. The Irish led 11-0, forcing South Dakota to take a timeout – all within the first two minutes of the game.
“Usually you see teams make adjustments [defensively] as guys hit one or two [three-pointers], but that didn’t really happen until Ryan hit seven,” said senior forward Zach Hillesland, who finished with six points and nine rebounds.
At this point, Ayers and McAlarney were just getting warmed up.
Ayers hit another three on Notre Dame’s first trip down the floor following the timeout. Zeller then downed his second and Ayers followed with a corner three to put the Irish up 20-2 with 16:34 left in the half.
“As soon as we learned about their zone we were drooling,” Hillesland said. “Because what team in their right mind would want to zone such a prolific shooting team as we have. You have arguably the best shooter in the country [in McAlarney] and we don’t think Ryan’s that far behind. You have a big guy like Luke Zeller and you bring in guys off the bench that can hit threes. Pick your poison. If you play zone, you’re going to have to leave one of them open.”
Ayers drained still another three following the media timeout with 15:46 left the half. McAlarney followed with three treys to put the Irish up 36-13 with 10:31 left in the half.
Ayers would spread out his next three from beyond the arc the rest of the half as Notre Dame took a 60-30 lead into the half.
South Dakota cut the lead to 78-59 in the second half, at which point Brey but his starters back in the game. On Notre Dame’s next trip down the floor, Ayers knocked down another three to stem the Coyotes’ run. Notre Dame quickly went on another run of its own, and went up 89-59 seemingly in the blink of an eye. Ayers had a chance to tie McAlarney’s program record of 10 3-pointers in one game, which McAlarney set last week against North Carolina, but his attempt from the left wing missed. Then Brey took him and the other starters out of the game the rest of the way. Junior guard Tory Jackson finished with 10 assists in the three-point exhibition.
uBrey said that he will take things “day-to-day” with junior forward Luke Harangody, who has sat out Notre Dame’s last two games because of pneumonia. His status for Saturday’s game against Ohio State is undetermined.