Dec. 2, 2008
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — With South Dakota playing zone, Notre Dame’s shooters got in a zone.
Ryan Ayers was 9-of-14 from 3-point range for a career-high 35 points and Kyle McAlarney was 7-of-13 on 3s for 27 points in the seventh-ranked Fighting Irish’s 102-76 victory over the Coyotes on Tuesday night.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was surprised that for a second straight game an opponent tried to stop the Irish with a zone, especially with leading scorer Luke Harangody out with pneumonia.
“I thought they would do something a little bit different,” he said.
South Dakota coach Dave Boots, though, said he had no choice.
“We tried some man, too, and that was a disaster. We had no chance in that,” he said. “It was unbelievable the way they shot in the first half.”
Ayers tied the Notre Dame record with nine 3s at the Joyce Center, one shy of the record 10 Donta Wade had for Providence against the Irish in 2000. McAlarney just missed a third straight 30-point game as the Irish (6-1) were 19-of-37 from 3-point range.
McAlarney wasn’t surprised by Ayers’ performance.
“The guy’s a great basketball player, he just doesn’t know it sometimes,” he said.
Ayers, who set his previous career high with 19 points against Furman on Sunday, had 25 points by halftime, making 7-of-10 3-pointers. The Irish were 14-of-23 to set a school record for 3s made in half, opening a 60-30 lead.
“Once I hit one shot I kept rolling. We’ve been shooting the ball really well, especially Kyle, and I just wanted to pick up off of that,” he said. “I just had a great feel every time I followed through and I just knew it was going in.”
Ayers said his teammates were joking with him at halftime that he had to try to break the school record of 10 3-pointers McAlarney set two games ago against top-ranked North Carolina.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t. He shot the last three — I think he did that on purpose,” Ayers joked.
Jesse Becker had 24 points for the Coyotes (3-5) who were just 4-of-18 on 3s in the first half and finished 11-of-29 for the game. Tyler Cain added 12 points for South Dakota and Louie Krogman and Steve Smith had 11 each.
The previous Notre Dame record for 3-pointers was 17, set against St. John’s in 2004 and tied against Louisville two years later. The 37 3-point attempts were a school record.
Ayers is the third person to score 30 points for the Irish this season, with Harangody getting 30 against South Carolina in the season opener. The last time the Irish had three 30-point scorers in a season was 1991-92, when Elmer Bennett did it three times, LaPhonso Ellis twice and Daimon Sweet once.
The Irish took control immediately, jumping to a 20-2 lead by making 6-of-7 3-pointers while the Coyotes went 1-of-6 from the field. Luke Zeller started the barrage of 3s, hitting the first 10 seconds into the game. Ayers then hit a jumper before McAlarney hit a 3, Ayers two 3s and Zeller another 3.
“We pass the ball so well and we play so much together, it’s kind of easy to pick apart the zone,” Ayers said.
South Dakota, in its first season in Division I with two losses this season to Division II teams, was clearly overmatched in its first game against a top 10 team. They were out-rebounded 45-35 and the Irish scored 31 points off 20 turnovers while South Dakota managed 12 points of 12 Irish turnovers. The Coyotes managed to outscore the Irish 32-26 in the paint.
Brey said Harangody, the Big East player of the year last season, is feeling better and is day-to-day heading into Saturday’s game against Ohio State.
“I think you’ve probably got to get to Friday and see where he is Friday,” Brey said.