Dec. 16, 2006
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey had an interesting take on the 21st-ranked Fighting Irish’s start.
It’s not that he thinks the Irish, who beat Elon 94-63 Saturday night for their seventh straight win, are playing bad. He just thinks that even after back-to-back wins over ranked teams, they came out against struggling Elon and played as they have most of this season – like a team looking to prove something.
“We were picked 11th in the (Big East) preseason poll. It was nice territory to teach in and operate in because we were way off the map and poor,” Brey said. “I’ve told them, `Even though we’ve put some money in the bank, can we still play poor? Can we still play poor? Because we have a long way to go.’ I think they’ve done that.”
The Irish (8-1) jumped to a 10-0 lead in the opening two minutes and the Phoenix (1-7) never threatened. Notre Dame has scored more than 90 points four times in its past five games and six times overall this season.
Brey said his team was businesslike after two big wins and a week of finals.
“That may have been the most important thing, to come in and just zero in and understand what they have to do,” Brey said.
Elon coach Ernie Nestor said his team couldn’t afford to fall behind.
“When they miss and continue to get the ball back, it makes it very difficult to compete with them, you have to shoot an incredible percentage, which we obviously weren’t doing,” he said.
The Irish grabbed control by outrebounding the Phoenix 11-1 early, and had a 55-30 rebounding advantage for the game.
“We knew we were bigger than them and we just tried to take advantage of it as much as we could,” said Rob Kurz, who had 16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots for the Irish.
Russell Carter led Notre Dame with 21 points, Luke Zeller had 14 points and Luke Harangody added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish.
Devan Carter led Elon with 14 points and Chris Chalko, who is from South Bend, added 12. LeVonn Jordan, Elon’s leading scorer at 20 points a game, missed his first 10 shots and finished with seven points. Nestor said he is still recovering from a concussion.
“He’s a much better basketball player than what you saw tonight,” he said.
The Irish went 30-of-38 from the free throw line, while Elon was just 7-of-9. Notre Dame scored 23 points off rebounds while Elon, which had 30 rebounds, scored just 10 off rebounds.
Notre Dame is off to its best start since opening the 2002-03 season 12-1 en route to an appearance in the NCAA tournament’s final 16.
Notre Dame was without Colin Falls, its third-leading scorer, after he underwent shock wave therapy on his left foot Friday because of plantar fasciitis. He is questionable for Notre Dame’s games next week against Portland and Army, although Brey is hopeful he will play.
Kurz said that after a week of finals, the Irish were just happy to get back on the floor.
“The week was stressful, but once it’s over you feel relieved and then you can just worry about basketball,” he said.