Dec. 19, 2006

Notre Dame Portland Box Score

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Russell Carter scored a career-high 28 points, Rob Kurz had 21 and No. 20 Notre Dame made a season-high 34 free throws to overcome its worst shooting game this season and beat Portland 86-69 on Tuesday night for its eighth straight victory.

The Irish (9-1) fell behind by five points at the start of the game and trailed by six less than six minutes in as they were just 1-of-7 from the field. But the Irish finished the first half on a 10-2 run and opened the second half with a 10-5 spurt to take control.

The Irish’s winning streak matches the two best over the previous seven seasons under coach Mike Brey. Notre Dame hasn’t won more than eight straight since winning 11 in a row late in the 1986-87 season under Digger Phelps.

Brian McTear had 14 points for Portland (2-11), which has lost eight straight, its longest losing streak since dropping 10 in a row during 2001-02.

Luke Harangody added 12 points for the Irish, who shot just 40.7 percent from the field.

Darren Cooper had 11 points for the Pilots, who shot 50 percent from the field and were 9-of-12 from the free throw line.

The Irish forced 19 turnovers by Portland and turned the ball over only 10 times – matching the season-low they had against Alabama.

The Irish, who entered the game averaging 87 points per game, were out of synch offensively for much of the night. During their 10-2 run late in the first half, Carter put up an air ball from 3-point range and when Kurz caught it and tried to score from under the basket his shot hit the bottom of the backboard.

Notre Dame entered the game shooting 50.5 percent from the field and its worst game was 43.1 percent against Maryland. But they shot just 37 percent in the first half, but led 35-29 despite Portland shooting 54.4 percent – the best by an Irish opponent this season.

Kyle McAlarney hit a 3-pointer early in the second half and Carter made two to give the Irish a 45-34 lead. Cooper hit two 3s during an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 56-51 midway through the second half, but Carter made a 3-pointer to stop the run. Notre Dame quickly extended the lead to 65-53 on a three-point play by Zach Hillesland and a free throw by Kurz.