The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-2) have had a fairly rocky start to this non-conference season but looked like they may have started to right the ship last week in Champaign with a nice road win over Illinois.
On Tuesday night, after nearly a week off, the Irish looked to follow up that win with another over an (unexpectedly) quality opponent. The Stony Brook Seawolves (4-3) came into Tuesday night ranked 66th in KenPom's ratings, the second best of all Notre Dame opponents thus far this season (behind Iowa).
Notre Dame was up to the challenge, however, as they jumped out to an eight-point lead by halftime and fended off every Seawolf run before eventually cruising in the second half in perhaps their most impressive and complete game of the season.
The Irish took the early advantage with a 13-4 margin before the first timeout, but Stony Brook battled back-and-forth, keeping the score in the single-digits for most of the first half. At one point, behind 8 straight Carson Puriefoy points, the Seawolves were able to cut the Irish lead to just one following the under-8 timeout.
Notre Dame answered with an onslaught of offense from all directions, with scores from Zach Auguste, V.J. Beachem, and Steve Vasturia on consecutive possessions to keep Stony Brook at arm's length.
Again, this time in the second half, the Seawolves cut the lead to four following the first timeout, so the Irish responded with seven straight points to extend the lead back out.
Ultimately, Stony Brook got cold and Notre Dame was able to cruise from there, as a Demetrius Jackson steal and dunk looked like it took the final wind out of the Seawolves' sails midway through the second half. A Matt Ryan three extended the lead to 25, the largest of the game for the Irish, and all but closed out this one with just under seven minutes remaining.
Zach Auguste led all scorers with 23 points on 9 of 13 shooting and added 11 rebounds to give him his 6th double-double in 8 games this season. Demetrius Jackson joined him in the double-double club with his 19 points and a career-high 10 assists. All Notre Dame starters unsurprisingly finished in double-figures.
The Seawolves were led by two-time America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney (16 points, 8 rebounds) and Carson Puriefoy (17 points). Only one other Seawolf finished in double-figures, and the Stony Brook bench struggled mightily, going 2 of 14 from the field.
The Irish capped off their big second half perfectly with a terrific Matt Farrell lob pass to Austin Torres, who knew exactly what to do with it:
Notre Dame takes on a Loyola-Chicago (5-3) team on Sunday that figures to be in the Missouri Valley Conference hunt this season. The Irish and Ramblers will tip off at 2pm at the Purcell Pavilion which can be found on ESPN3.
Other Thoughts and Observations:
- Zach Auguste showed a complete offensive game tonight that should have NBA scouts drooling. He must have been working on that mid-range jumper all summer, but back-to-the-basket, running to the rim, facing up from 15, you name it. He had it all working tonight.
- Hopefully the Irish basketball staff sends over the Zach Auguste highlight reel from tonight's game to the houses of Thon Maker and Jarrett Allen as soon as possible.
- Demetrius Jackson just looks like he is in control of the game at all times. He has a great command of the offense and everyone on the court and will make a truly professional-grade play or two when the moment calls for it. It's really a treat to get to watch him go to work, as he has really taken over for Jerian Grant as the ultimate lead-by-example type of player.
- Austin Torres was first off the bench tonight with Matt Farrell but still only logged 5 minutes. His 4 points (including the monster oop from Farrell) and 4 rebounds should have him in line to double those minutes in the next couple games.
- I'm not sure if it was being at home or what, but the Irish showed some extra intensity tonight not just in their play but with a lot of emotion throughout as well. I don't think it's a coincidence that they this was also the first game this season they were really able to step on the throats of a quality opponent and put them away. They are going to need more of that edge as the season progresses.
- Notre Dame started really pulling away when they also started completely dominating on the boards. It was fairly even halfway through the second half, but they finished +19 on the boards, which really helped them pull away.
- Stony Brook is the huge favorite to win the America East this season and come in at 75th in KenPom's rankings following this one. Their only other losses are in overtime at Vanderbilt and by one at Western Kentucky. Notre Dame made them look like bottom-feeders in this one. I'm thoroughly impressed and did not see such a dominant final score coming.