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Mens’ Basketball: Zeller has career high in victory

Fran Tolan | Monday, November 17, 2008

No. 9 Notre Dame bookended halftime with two big runs and used those spurts to secure a 94-58 victory over USC Upstate Sunday.

The Irish went on a 10-2 run to end the first half then came out of the locker room with seven unanswered points on the way to the blowout win.

“How we ended the half and how we started the second half were big as far as breaking the [game] open,” Irish coach Mike Brey said.

In its first regular-season game of the season, the Irish offense showed no signs of rust as the team made 50.7 percent of its field goals. Irish forward Luke Harangody led all scorers with 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting and senior co-captain Luke Zeller chipped in 18 points.

“With our group, it’s kinda like, ‘How are they gonna play us?'” Brey said. “Because we obviously do have a lot of offensive weapons.”

Harangody picked up 18 points before halftime but the game was close for much of the first stanza. Notre Dame began to pull away right before the break. Harangody highlighted the spurt when he took a pass from Zeller on a fast break and made a layup while getting fouled. He knocked down the ensuing free throw to give the Irish a 39-31 edge.

On USC Upstate’s last possession of the first half, Notre Dame’s man defense forced Spartans guard Josh Chavis to travel and the Irish got the ball back with 5.7 seconds on the clock. After Brey called a timeout, Irish point guard Tory Jackson streaked up the left side of the court before finding Zeller for an open 3-point attempt. Zeller knocked down the trey as the buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame a 44-33 edge at halftime.

“That’s just huge at the end of the half, that’s just big right there,” Brey said. “We did a real good job – Tory did a good job – of getting in there and finding him and to go in at [halftime] like that [is important].”

And the Irish didn’t let up after the break. The team came out of the gates by scoring the first seven points of the period. Harangody made a layup before senior co-captain Ryan Ayers picked up a steal and finished the play with a dunk. Ayers hit a contested jump shot on Notre Dame’s next possession to give the Irish a 51-33 lead with 19:16 left in the game.

To the delight of the Joyce Center crowd, Notre Dame had a slew of dunks in the second half. Ayers, Harangody, senior Zach Hillesland and sophomore Carleton Scott each threw down at least one as the Irish sealed the victory.