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Men’s Basketball: Zeller shines in preseason win

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Notre Dame jumped out to a 16-point lead early then coasted to an easy 85-57 win over Bellarmine Monday night at the Joyce Center in its second exhibition contest of the season.

“I think we did pretty well,” Irish guard Russell Carter said. “We’re moving, we’re talking, and we’re rebounding – that’s a big difference from last year. We’re just getting to the ball faster.”

With junior forward Rob Kurz out with a broken nose, sophomore forward Luke Zeller stepped up in the post with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, nine rebounds and two blocks. Zeller led a balanced Irish attack that had three players in double figures and six players with eight or more points.

“Zeller is just getting more and more confident,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “He’s found a nice rhythm. We just have to keep working with him and keep him confident.”

Sophomore forward Zach Hillesland took Kurz’s place in the starting lineup, scoring seven points and tallying five assists, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 23 minutes.

“He’s a heck of a basketball player,” Brey said of Hillesland. “He’s really good with the basketball. He can rebound, pass, make the free throws, and get his hands on stuff.”

Brey said Hillesland, who didn’t play very much last year, will be a key cog in the Irish machine this season.

“He’s one of those guys who doesn’t start for us, but even if he doesn’t start he’s going to be a finisher,” Brey said. “I think he’s going to finish a lot of games.”

The Knights stuck with Notre Dame for the first few minutes and trailed only 12-10 with 15:22 left in the first half. Then the Irish switched to a full court press and went on a 14-0 run over the next five minutes.

“We said we were going to try to get up into their guards, and the first couple times with the full court, they panicked,” Carter said. Carter scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting (2-of-4 from 3-point range). The senior guard also added five rebounds, two assists and one steal.

Notre Dame led 50-33 at halftime, but the Knights traded baskets with the Irish for most of the second half. With 3:22 left in the game, the teams had played to a 23-23 tie after the break.

“In the second half we got a little lackadaisical because we were up so many points,” Carter said.

The Irish then went on a 12-1 run to end the game, capped by a dunk by freshman guard Joe Harden at the buzzer.

Kurz suffered his injury on an elbow to the face from freshman forward Luke Harangody in practice. Irish coach Mike Brey said Kurz will return to practice Wednesday and is expected to play Friday in Notre Dame’s regular season opener against IPFW wearing a protective mask.

“[Harangody’s] gotten two noses and given [sophomore point guard] Kyle McAlarney stiches,” Brey said of the physical freshmen. “I think his quota for noses might be about twenty this season, but I told him to get the rest of them in the Big East.”

Monday was the second straight game that Zeller has finished with four fouls. Foul trouble kept him out of most of the Rockhurst game, but he didn’t get his fourth foul against Bellarmine until there were only four minutes left in the game.

“I didn’t foul out so I’m not worried about it,” Zeller said of the foul trouble. “I just need to adjust to how the refs are calling the game. I did a better job of that today than last week.”

McAlarney was the third Irish player in double figures, scoring 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Freshman Tory Jackson – nine points on 1-of-5 shooting (7-of-10 from the free throw line) – spelled McAlarney.

The Irish as a whole took 30 shots from the charity stripe and made 21, including 16-for-22 in the first half. Bellarmine got to the line only 19 times, making 12.

Fresh off a 17-point outburst in his first collegiate experience against Rockhurst, Harangody added nine points and nine rebounds against the Knights, a bigger and stronger team than the Hawks.

“This team was definitely more physical than Rockhurst, which was good for us, especially our front line,” the freshman said.

Notre Dame’s regular season opener Friday against IPFW will tip-off at 8 p.m. at the Joyce Center.


u Irish guard Colin Falls scored just eight points on 2-of-3 shooting in 30 minutes. But Brey was not concerned with his senior’s lack of attempts because of the way he played off the ball and how he contributed to the team’s performance.

Brey has touted Falls early this season for being one of the smartest players he’s coached at Notre Dame given his grasp of the system.

“I looked at the box score and said ‘God, Falls only took three shots.’ He just kind of flowed and fit in,” Brey said. “Teams know about him as our returning guy, but if we can take what the D gives us and not force things, we’ll like to have that.”