Colin Falls looked fine in his return to the lineup in Notre Dame’s most recent game. After more rest, he could look even better as the No. 19 Fighting Irish try to win their 10th straight game as they host Rider on Thursday.
Falls, who missed his first two games of his college career with inflammation in his foot, made his first seven shots while scoring a season-high 24 points, making 9 of 11 shots in just 18 minutes in Notre Dame’s 88-47 win over Army last Thursday.
“I think I’m moving better,” said Falls, who was 6-for-8 from 3-point range after going 3-for-15 in his previous two games. “It’s like I’m playing with a free mind.”
Falls, one of the team’s top 3-point shooters, picked up where he left off before missing Notre Dame’s wins against Elon on Dec. 16 and Portland on Dec. 19. Averaging 14.9 points, the senior guard scored 20—highlighted by a 12-for-13 performance from the free-throw line—in a 99-85 win over then-No. 4 Alabama on Dec. 7.
“He is a key guy for our team,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Beyond shooting the ball well and scoring, just his presence on the court is so important to us.”
Falls is shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range this season. He could stay hot against Rider (7-4), which has allowed two of its last three opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the field.
A healthy Falls, coupled with leading scorer Russell Carter—who is averaging 17.6 points overall and 22.0 in his last four games—and forward Rob Kurz (15.3 ppg) could keep the Irish on a roll heading into Big East.
Carter is shooting 47.8 percent (32-for-67) from 3-point range for the Irish, who are shooting 40.7 from beyond the arc as a team.
Notre Dame plays Stony Brook on Saturday in its final non-conference game before opening with Louisville on Jan. 3.
“They’ve done some good things to date and I think anything you can do to grow confidence and security, I think it’s a good thing with this team,” Brey said.
The Irish have not won 10 straight games since winning 11 in a row during the 1986-87 season and might not have it too easy on the perimeter against Rider, which is holding opponents 32.2 percent from 3-point range.
The Broncs snapped a two-game losing streak by rallying from a 21-point deficit to defeat Farleigh Dickinson 74-72 last Friday.
Terrance Mouton keyed a 25-7 second-half run, scoring 12 of his career-high 23 points in the burst.
“We were getting stop after stop, but we weren’t scoring,” Rider coach Tommy Dempsey said. “Then Terrance turned it on.”
Forward Jason Thompson, the team’s leading scorer at 20.3 points per game, rebounded with 24 after scoring 14 in a 108-61 loss to Villanova on Dec. 20.
Notre Dame won the only other meeting between the two teams, 75-62 on Dec. 22, 1999.