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Men’s Basketball: Wolfpack prove to be tough

Bobby Griffin | Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thirty-seven percent shooting does not win games against tough ACC opponents.

The Irish (2-1) learned this the hard way Saturday night, as they fell 61-48 to North Carolina State (5-0) at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.

Notre Dame’s starting guards struggled, as Chris Quinn and Colin Falls combined to shoot 5-of-24. Quinn finished 4-of-15 from the field with 11 points. Falls shot 1-of-9 from the field for three points.

“We played an experienced team who defended and took us out of some things, especially with guards,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We got out of feeding the post. We had the ball in to Torin [Francis] pretty well the first four to six possessions and kind of lost track of him.”

Francis finished 6-of-8 from the floor with 13 points and 11 rebounds. But when Notre Dame got away from giving Francis the ball in the post, North Carolina State took a big lead.

Irish guard Russell Carter gave Notre Dame a 16-15 lead with 7:24 left in the first half but the Wolfpack responded with a 16-1 run to give them a 31-20 cushion at the break.

Irish forward Luke Zeller’s 3-point field goal at the end of the half was the only basket Notre Dame scored in the final seven minutes.

North Carolina State continued to dominate Notre Dame early in the second half as it started off with a quick 10-2 run ignited by 3-pointers from Ilian Evtimov and Engin Astur. The Wolfpack had a 41-22 lead with 16:43 remaining.

Evtimov finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, 3-of-4 from 3-point range, and Astur added 11 points and three steals.

The Irish managed to outscore the Wolfpack 26-20 the rest of the game as they moved into a zone defense. But because of its offensive struggles, Notre Dame was unable to mount a legitimate comeback – trailing by no less than eight in the entire half.

“The zone saved us because we had a little trouble and lost some shooters early on,” Brey said. “Then we went zone for about seven or eight straight possessions and probably got six stops, but we also played empty offensive possessions off of those stops.”

The Irish coach was frustrated when Notre Dame began to play well on the defensive end but could not capitalize. Notre Dame shot 3-of-18 from 3-point range and 7-of-13 from the free throw line.

“If you had told me they were going to score 61 points when I was driving down there, I would have said I liked our chances,” Brey said. “On that [defensive] end of the floor, we’re doing enough. I think we’ve got to clean up some offensive stuff.”

Despite Notre Dame’s difficulty scoring overall, Brey was pleased with Carter’s play on the offensive end. The Irish guard finished 4-of-9 from the field for 13 points and was productive getting to the basket while Quinn and Falls struggled.

“Russell drives and gets fouled,” Brey said. “He only shot 4-for-8 from the line, but he’s gotten better at not forcing his drives. Five of his six drives got fouled or scored.

“I told him since he was a 75-percent foul shooter in high school that he’s got to get his legs under him and make those because he’s going to get to the line a lot.”

Irish freshmen Zeller and guard Kyle McAlarney played 20 and 15 minutes, respectively. Zeller had three points and four rebounds.

Notre Dame 69, Hofstra 50

Brey knew Hofstra would be a tough opponent, and he even went as far as saying the Pride would look like a Big East opponent after Notre Dame’s win over Lafayette Nov. 20. And for a while Tuesday that proved true.

The Irish trailed the Pride 33-29 at half, but exploded for 40 second-half points on 52-percent shooting from the field.

Falls led the Irish with 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting from 3-point range and Quinn scored 16 as Notre Dame limited Hofstra to 31-percent shooting in the victory Nov. 22.

Carter hit a 3-pointer to start a 14 -3 Irish run early in the second half to give Notre Dame a 46-38 lead. The Irish then added a 16-2 run later in the half to put the game out of reach.

The Irish outscored the Pride 40-17 in the second half, as Hofstra shot 23 percent from the floor.

Francis added 11 points, seven rebounds and a block in the victory.