An outstanding start offensively has Notre Dame back in the AP Top 25. The Irish are probably much more prolific than any other team Kennesaw State will face this season.
Luke Harangody and the 23rd-ranked Irish look to continue their offensive surge as they continue the Chicago Invitational Challenge on Tuesday night against the Atlantic Sun Conference’s Owls.
Notre Dame (4-0) is gearing up for Big East play nicely, averaging 88.5 points while shooting 54.1 percent from the field and 48.1 percent from 3-point range. The Irish beat Liberty 91-72 on Sunday in its first game of the Chicago Invitational.
One day later, Notre Dame returned to the top 25 for the for the first time since it was ranked 19th the week of Jan. 19.
The Irish have scored at least 80 points in each of their first four games. The last time they accomplished that feat was in the 1978-79 season, reaching 80 in their first five contests.
This will be Notre Dame’s first matchup with Kennesaw State (2-1), which hasn’t faced a ranked team since losing 74-65 to then-No. 8 Wichita State on Dec. 19, 2006.
The Owls will have their hands full trying to stop Harangody. The senior All-American scored 32 points, making all 10 of his free throws, versus Liberty.
It was his 10th game with at least 30 points.
“I’m trying to move to different areas on the floor and not let teams recognize what I am going to do every time,” said Harangody, averaging 26.8 points and 9.3 rebounds. “When (I’m) behind the three-point line, that frees things up for Tyrone Nash inside.”
Senior guard Ben Hansbrough entered the game averaging 16.0 points, but he was slowed by an ankle injury and finished with six in 21 minutes.
“We’ve learned to play a certain way offensively and it was a little bit thrown off because he’s still sore and we’re trying to get him healthy,” coach Mike Brey said.
Hansbrough is Notre Dame’s top transfer after helping Mississippi State advance to the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament. His older brother, Tyler, led North Carolina to the national championship in the spring and is now a rookie with the Indiana Pacers.
When Hansbrough is healthy, the Irish are more dangerous offensively. Brey, though, believes his team also has room for improvement defensively.
Notre Dame gave up 39 points in the first half against the Flames, but forced 12 of Liberty’s 19 turnovers in the second half and scored 23 total points off those miscues.
“We’re not good enough to be disinterested defensively against people,” Brey said. “We’ve got to be really locked in. Our margin for error is small.”
Kennesaw State certainly can’t afford many mistakes to have any chance of upsetting Notre Dame. Matt Heramb had five turnovers and the Owls allowed Saint Louis to shoot 58.0 percent in a 76-66 loss Sunday in the Chicago Invitational.
Forwards Jon-Michael Nickerson and Markeith Cummings had strong performances, finishing with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Nickerson is averaging a team-high 16.3 points, and Cummings has posted 15.7.