With few expectations surrounding the program, Notre Dame has opened some eyes through the first two weeks of the season.
Ranked for the first time since last November, the No. 25 Irish look to remain perfect when they host Indiana State on Tuesday night.
With former All-American Luke Harangody and four-year starter Tory Jackson gone, little was expected of what returned from a Notre Dame team that went 23-12 and lost to Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
However, after winning the Old Spice Classic over the weekend, the Irish look to start 8-0 for the first time since the 1973-74 season.
“I think we showed a lot of people out there that we still have some fight in us,” senior forward Tim Abromaitis said.
Abromaitis (16.0 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game in 2009-10), Ben Hansbrough (14.6 ppg, 3.9 assists per game), Tyrone Nash (12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Carleton Scott (11.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) all contributed to last season’s success without playing a prominent role.
With those players making up the core of the team, that has changed this season.
Notre Dame has averaged 81.9 points while holding opponents to 37.1 percent shooting—30.1 from 3-point range.
In its last two contests, Notre Dame held Cal and Wisconsin to a combined 95 points on 30.5 percent shooting. The Irish allowed a combined 24 first-half points.
Defense helped the Irish erase an 11-point second-half deficit by scoring 15 straight points in the final four minutes of a 58-51 win over the Badgers in Sunday’s title game. Scott and reserve Eric Atkins each had 12 points while Abromaitis and Hansbrough added 10 apiece.
“I learned something about my team that I knew I would down here,” said coach Mike Brey, who has guided the Irish to three in-season tournament titles in 11 seasons. “You hope to learn while you’re winning, certainly that’s helpful. But for us right now, this team is very confident.”
The Irish will take that confidence into their second meeting with Indiana State (3-3). Notre Dame, which beat the Sycamores 66-49 at home during the 1947-48 season, is 34-0 on its own court in November under Brey.
Senior guard Jake Kelly averages a team-leading 11.7 points.
The Sycamores have dropped seven in a row against Top 25 schools since beating No. 15 Butler 72-64 on Dec. 9, 2006.