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Men’s Basketball

Irish pull away from River Hawks

| Monday, November 23, 2015

Senior forward Zach Auguste and No. 18 Notre Dame used their considerable size advantage to blow past UMass Lowell, 83-57, on Saturday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.

Auguste, who notched a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, said he focused on putting together a good performance against a much smaller opponent.

“Some of the guys mentioned to me I’ve gotta dominate inside, especially on the glass, and I’ve gotta impose my will,” Auguste said. “Obviously, they didn’t have size so I had to take advantage of that and I think I did.”

The starting lineups for the Irish (3-0) and the River Hawks (1-2) were near polar opposites: Notre Dame started four upperclassmen and four players 6-foot-5 or taller, while the River Hawks opened with five underclassmen, four of whom were 6-foot-3 or shorter.

From the game’s first possession, when Auguste was fouled going up for a shot in the post, the Irish prioritized getting the ball inside. Auguste collected 15 points in the first half and went 6-of-8 from the field, and he said Notre Dame, who led 25-8 just past the midway point of the first half, tried to avoid the slow starts it has gotten off to in its first few games.

“We wanted to get off to a good start, and we know that for that to happen, we had to focus on defensive first, execute on the defensive end, get some stops, rebounds and run,” Auguste said.

Auguste’s fast start opened things up for Notre Dame’s guards — junior Demetrius Jackson hit a trio of 3-pointers en route to a 13-point first half as the Irish extended their lead to 33-15 with five minutes to play in the half.

Senior forward Zach Auguste looks to pass during Notre Dame’s 86-78 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion. Rosie Biehl | The Observer

Senior forward Zach Auguste looks to pass during Notre Dame’s 86-78 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion.

The strong opening allowed Irish head coach Mike Brey to work all 11 active scholarship players into the game, but when the River Hawks went on a 9-0 run to close Notre Dame’s lead to 33-24 late in the first half, Brey reverted to his starting five.

“I was trying to get everyone in during the first half, but I don’t know if it was conducive to our offensive flow,” Brey said. “Out of the guys we had playing, there were probably too many forwards chasing guards, and it really wasn’t conducive to our defensive flow.”

Auguste added five more points before the half to push Notre Dame’s lead to 14 at the break, setting the stage for an explosive 22-6 run in the first 10 minutes of the second half to give the Irish a 62-32 lead with 10:52 left in the game.

Junior guard Steve Vasturia, who led the Irish with nine second-half points, said Notre Dame wanted to put the game away early in the final stanza.

“I think we wanted to come out with a sense of urgency in the second half,” Vasturia said. “We had some spurts in the first half where we were playing well on both ends of the floor but second half, we wanted to get off to a good start and carry that through for another 20 minutes.”

Sophomore guard Matt Farrell and freshman forward Matt Ryan were once again the first two players off the bench for Notre Dame on Saturday, and Brey said the duo’s sixth- and seventh-man slots are fairly safe. Junior forward Austin Torres, however, has worked his way into consideration for playing time, Brey said.

“Torres is on my mind as our first big guy sub as we head to Orlando,” the Irish head coach said. “I think we really have to get him reps for the simple reason that he is extremely active. That’s no mystery … we saw it last year.”

Notre Dame returns to action Thursday when it kicks off play at the AdvoCare Invitational at Walt Disney World’s HP Field House. The Irish will open the tournament against Monmouth, who took down UCLA to open its season Nov. 13, before facing either Iowa or Dayton on Friday.

“I think it’s gonna be a great challenge for us,” Vasturia said. “There’s a lot of good teams, and it’ll be an opportunity to play away from our home gym for the first time. It should be a lot of fun.”

If the higher seeds win out, a rematch of last season’s Sweet 16 contest with No. 9 Wichita State looms for the Irish, and Brey said he is looking forward to seeing his team in a tournament situation once more.

“I like that we get a lot of games at a high level of competition playing for a championship,” Brey said. “You have the chance to cut nets down. We did it last time in Orlando, and this group did it not that long ago in Greensboro. They’re excited that they get to play for a championship.”

And with snow on the ground in Indiana, a trip to Florida isn’t the worst thing in the world, Auguste said.

“It’s gonna be fun to get away from the snow,” Auguste said. “ … I’ve got a lot of family coming down for the tournament so it should be a great atmosphere.”

Notre Dame opens play Thursday against Monmouth at 6:30 p.m. in the AdvoCare Invitational, with action continuing Friday and Sunday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.”At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer.A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa.When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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