Nov. 12, 2010
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 2010-11 Notre Dame men’s basketball team certainly knows how to make a good first impression.
Leading by as many as 34 points less than 10 minutes into the game, the Irish sailed to a convincing 98-61 win over Georgia Southern in the season opener for both teams Friday night at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish could not have begun their season in better fashion. Looking sharp from the opening tip, Notre Dame (1-0) took advantage of a rattled Georgia Southern (0-1) squad that missed its first seven shots from the floor and did not convert a field goal until the 11:55 mark of the opening half. The Irish scored the first 11 points of the contest and knocked down 15 of their first 18 shots to build a 36-point cushion (50-14) with 7:14 to play in the first half.
Notre Dame dominated the Eagles in all facets of the game, but looked especially strong around the basket. The Irish held a 46-27 advantage on the glass and out-scored Georgia Southern in the paint, 44-18. Notre Dame moved the ball well – making 21 assists on 33 field goals – and received 48 hard-fought points from its bench of promising underclassmen.
Ben Hansbrough led all scorers with 20 points and connected on four of his five three-point attempts. Hansbrough also scored his 1,000th career point in the game with a bucket midway through the first half. The senior was part of a balanced scoring effort for the Irish, as nine of 12 players posted at least seven points.
The home team put on a show for the 8,165 in attendance with a number of spectacular plays during its impressive first-half run, which extended beyond the 10-minute mark of the period. Perhaps the most exciting of the bunch came from Jack Cooley, who elevated over his defender for an electric dunk and absorbed the foul while also converting the three-point play from the charity stripe to move the Irish ahead, 26-3. Two possessions later, Joey Brooks threw a perfect cross-court pass to Eric Atkins, who went up-and-under for the score. Atkins then stole the ball on the ensuing play and returned the favor to Brooks on the break for a two-handed flush at 37-5.
Cooley kept a number of possessions alive throughout the game by posting six rebounds – including four on the offensive end – to go along with a career-high 11 points in 16 minutes.
With 5:34 to play in the opening half, a floater by Atkins moved the Irish ahead (54-14) and a second-chance put-back by Brooks gave the squad a 44-point cushion (58-14), its largest of the game.
Behind a 60.6 percent shooting performance in the first half the Irish held a 39-point lead (62-23) at the break. Notre Dame’s 62-point output in the opener tied the high-water mark under head coach Mike Brey previously set Nov. 22, 2000 against Loyola-Chicago.
The Eagles made only five field goals in the opening stanza – the fewest first-half baskets by an Irish opponent in the Brey era – while shooting a dismal 21.7 percent (5-23) from the floor.
Georgia Southern began to find its shooting range in the second half, but could not move closer than 33 (70-37) in the first six minutes. A three-point play by Scott Martin moved the Irish back in front by 36 (73-37) and the senior converted on a strong drive to the basket just seconds later, extending the advantage to 40 points with 10:58 to play.
Martin recorded seven points and grabbed five rebounds in his Notre Dame debut.
With the Irish comfortably in front, 86-49, Notre Dame’s group of underclassmen and senior walk-on Tom Kopko played out the remaining 5:30.
Sophomore Tom Knight and freshman Alex Dragicevich each scored their first career points in the contest, while Atkins finished his debut in an Irish uniform with nine points, three rebounds and three assists.
Senior Tim Abromaitis added 10 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes.
The 98 points scored by Notre Dame were the most in a season opener by the team since the 2001-02 season, while the 37-point margin of victory was the highest for the Irish in an opener since 2006-07.
With the victory, Notre Dame improves to 88-18 (.830) all-time in season openers including a perfect 11-0 mark under Brey.
The Irish return to Purcell Pavilion for a non-conference contest against Liberty at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday (Nov. 14).