Notre Dame prevailed in its opener thanks to a solid performance by its star and some strong defense.
While Mike Brey was pleased with the defense, he would like to see the rest of the team pick it up on offense Monday night when his 20th-ranked Fighting Irish host Monmouth in another preliminary round game in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Brey is counting on Jack Cooley to lead Notre Dame, and the preseason All-Big East selection immediately put the team on his back in Saturday's opener against Evansville.
Cooley scored the game's first nine points and finished with 19 in a 58-49 win. The 6-foot-9 senior, who averaged 12.5 points and 8.9 rebounds last season, also had 11 boards and blocked a career-best six shots.
"He really got us jump-started," Brey said. "He gave us a great presence and really helped us by blocking some shots at key times."
Cooley made 5 of his 7 shots, but the rest of the Irish shot 34.2 percent (13 of 38).
Senior Scott Martin grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds but was 1 of 6 from the floor, while Pat Connaughton missed 6 of 8 shots. As a team, the Irish were 4 of 17 (23.5 percent) from 3-point range and also turned the ball over 13 times.
"I'd like to see us get into a rhythm Monday," Brey said. "And I think we can shoot it overall better than we did."
While the offense obviously has room to improve, Brey credited the entire team's defense with the win. The Irish held the Purple Aces to 31.1 percent shooting - 23.8 percent from beyond the 3-point arc - and blocked nine shots.
"To be able to keep our composure when we're not shooting that well was good," Cooley said. "It's good to see that people aren't letting their offensive game affect their entire game."
Notre Dame, which has won 19 consecutive home games over non-conference opponents, will try for a similar defensive effort against a Monmouth team that faced little resistance in a season-opening 91-62 victory over Hofstra on Friday.
The Hawks scored 50 points in the first half for the first time since 2009 and shot 50.0 percent for the game. Guard Andrew Nicholas, who averaged 8.8 points as a freshman last season, led the way with a career-high 28 points and was 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
Duplicating that kind of performance Monday seems like a tall order given Monmouth's history with Notre Dame and against ranked foes.
The Irish haven't faced the Hawks since a 76-33 victory in the 2007 Paradise Jam, and have won the first four meetings by an average of 33.3 points.
It's been a similar story for Monmouth against ranked teams since 1999, losing all 10 of its games by an average of 27.9 points.
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