Jan. 14, 2007
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – The future is looking bright for No. 22 Notre Dame.
The present isn’t so bad, either.
The 22nd-ranked Fighting Irish started a pair of freshmen for the first time in five years in Tory Jackson and Luke Harangody, and a third freshman, Jonathan Peoples, played a career-high 19 minutes Sunday when Notre Dame built a big lead against Seton Hall and held on for an 88-76 victory.
“We were young,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I’m looking out there at Peoples and Jackson, but God did they play old. They were young but they played old.”
The Irish were forced to play Jackson and Peoples more after Kyle McAlarney was suspended indefinitely after being arrested on a marijuana possession charge on Dec. 29. They were forced to go even younger against Seton Hall when Colin Falls, Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer, played just 19 minutes because of a stomach virus.
The Irish got their usual big contributions from Russell Carter, with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Rob Kurz, with 15 points and nine rebounds. But sophomore Zach Hillesland added a career-high 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in playing a career-high 25 minutes, coming two assists shy of becoming just the second Irish player with a triple-double.
“It was a matter of finding open guys and knocking down shots, just getting a rebound and doing little things here and there,” Hillesland said.
The Pirates trailed by 11 late in the first half, but cut the lead to 44-41 on a 3-pointer by Brian Laing with 17:51 left in the second half.
But the only field goal Seton Hall scored over nearly 9 minutes came on a goaltending call as the Irish went on a 28-10 run. Seton Hall used a 9-0 run in 68 seconds to close to 77-67 on a basket inside by Eugene Harvey, but couldn’t get any closer as the Irish shot 54 percent and held Seton Hall to 36 percent shooting.
“Even without Kyle McAlarney, they’re one of the best shooting teams in the country that I’ve seen,” Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said.
Notre Dame (15-2, 3-1 Big East) improved to 13-0 at home and is off to its best start in seven seasons under Brey.
“I think our guys are really confident here,” Brey said. “Taking care of your stuff here has been good. If we can continue to do that, that’s great. Then you want to steal a couple on the road.”
Seton Hall (10-6, 2-2) hasn’t won two straight since early December.
Brian Laing led Seton Hall with 20 points, Harvey added 17, Jamar Nutter 16 and Larry Davis 13. Harangody added 12 points for the Irish.
Peoples said he didn’t notice the young Irish lineup until someone else pointed it out.
“I think we all have confidence, and we don’t look at each other as freshmen or sophomores,” he said. “We look at each other as just being teammates.”