Dec. 29, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said Tuesday that the late-December scheduling of Liberty was ”flat out luck,” but he’ll try to use it to his advantage.
Luck beacuse Liberty coach Ritchie McKay was Virginia’s associate head coach last season when the Cavaliers beat Notre Dame and it just so happens that No. 5 Virginia is Notre Dame’s next opponent to open ACC play on Jan. 2.
The Irish viewed the Liberty matchup as a preview of sorts and came away with a relatively comfortable, if not inspiring, 73-56 win.
”It was kind of nice to be able to talk about some Virginia-type stuff and see some of it,” Brey said.
McKay, whose Flames came into the game with the lowest RPI rating in Division I at No. 351, was responsible for scouting the Irish when he was at Virginia and knew the challenge his team faced.
”I knew it was going to be hard and as (the game) approached, I wanted to cancel it because the weather was really bad (Monday) night,” McKay joked. ”They can score from every position and it makes it a really hard matchup.”
Steve Vasturia overcame a shooting slump to score 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting for Notre Dame (9-3). In his previous two games combined before a weeklong holiday break, Vasturia managed just 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
”I don’t know what he did when he went home, and I didn’t ask him,” Brey said. ”I’m a firm believer in the law of averages with a guy like that.”
Zach Auguste fought through a constant double team in the post to finish with 13 points and tied a career-high with 14 rebounds for the Irish. Auguste expects to see more of the same from the Cavaliers on Saturday.
”(Liberty’s double-team) was little bit looser but I know Virginia’s will be a lot tighter,” Auguste said.
Liberty (3-12) lost its 11th in a row. Caleb Homesley led the Flames with 18 points and Evan Maxwell added 15 points and eight rebounds.
After a lethargic end to the first half, the Irish came out strong in the second. V.J. Beachem hit a pair of 3-pointers to start an 11-0 run to open a 20-point lead in the first 90 seconds of the half.
Beachem finished with nine points on three 3-pointers, all in the second half. The Irish led by as much as 21 points and their advantage never dipped below 14 the rest of the way.
”We got some better movement and better looks to get us flowing offensively,” Brey said.
Demetrius Jackson’s tough scoop shot in the paint led to a 3-point play for the Irish, highlighting an 11-2 first-half run for a 30-17 lead. Jackson also finished with nine points for the Irish.
Notre Dame went 0 for 4 from the field and committed three turnovers over the final 4:40 of the first half, but still led by nine points at the break as the Flames struggled from the field as well, shooting just 32 percent (9 for 28).
Following the holiday layoff, Brey said the Irish focused on improving their defense.
”We’re fourth offensively, and we’re 167th defensively,” Brey said of his message to the team. ”We’re going to have to make some improvement there if we’re going to get where we want to get.”
Liberty shot just 38 percent Tuesday, including 4 for 20 from 3-point range.
Liberty: One of the youngest teams in NCAA Division I, the Flames started two freshmen and three sophomores, and have only one upperclassman on the roster in fifth-year senior Anthony Field, a Wake Forest transfer.
Notre Dame: Liberty’s 56 points matched an opponent-low in scoring for the season. The Irish also allowed 56 in their season-opening win over St. Francis (PA).
Liberty hosts UNC Asheville on Jan. 2.
Notre Dame travels to No. 5 Virginia on Jan. 2.