Notre Dame is focused on strengthening its defense before opening Big East play next week. Its defense shouldn’t have any trouble looking good in its final non-conference tuneup.
The eighth-ranked Fighting Irish look to extend their school-record home winning streak to 43 games on Monday against a Savannah State team which has had trouble putting the ball in the hoop.
Notre Dame’s offense is one of the best in the nation, averaging 83.4 points per game, but with eight ranked teams in the Big East, the Irish (8-2) know their defense needs to be sound in order to contend for a conference title. Picked to finish fourth in the Big East preseason poll, Notre Dame opens league play at DePaul on New Year’s Eve.
The Irish are coming off an 88-50 win over Delaware State on Saturday, when they had 25 assists and only four turnovers.
Luke Harangody scored 20 points to lead Notre Dame, but he credited the defense for getting the team going.
“It fuels our offense,” said Harangody, the Big East preseason player of the year. “When it comes to offense, we set the tone for the entire game.
“We got to show a couple of different things (on defense) and that is good for us going into Big East play. We’re going to have to do that in league play. With good defense comes our offense.”
The Irish are limiting opponents to 61.3 points per game and 38.2 percent shooting from the field. Those numbers would actually mark an improvement for Savannah State (7-4), which is mired in an offensive funk.
In five games this month, the Tigers are averaging 46.4 points and shooting 31.4 percent. They shot 28.0 percent (14-for-50) from the floor in Thursday’s 47-42 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, as senior Raye Bailey scored a team-high 10 points.
Savannah State has also had little success away from home, dropping its four road games this season by an average margin of 28.5 points, including a 100-38 loss at then-No. 19 Georgetown on Dec. 8.
The Tigers have lost 118 of 125 road games since 2000-01, and have lost their six games against ranked opponents in that span by an average of 45.2 points.
The Irish, meanwhile, have won 42 straight games at the Joyce Center since an 80-72 loss to Marquette on Feb. 25, 2006. Notre Dame’s five home wins this season have come by a 27.8-point average margin.
Harangody is averaging 24.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and shooting 59.6 percent in the three games he’s played this season at the Joyce Center. He missed wins over Furman and South Dakota with pneumonia.
Senior guard Kyle McAlarney scored 14 points against Delaware State, and is averaging 22.3 points in his last four home games.
This will be the first meeting between Notre Dame and Savannah State.