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Notre Dame eases past St. Francis

The SportsXchange

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- With No. 8 Kentucky looming next week, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey emphasized play in the paint as the Irish battled St. Francis (Pa.) on Saturday.

And Brey liked the results as forward Jack Cooley collected 13 points and 13 rebounds and center Garrick Sherman added 11 points and seven boards in a 69-52 victory at Purcell Pavilion.

"It was good to play the two bigs a lot tonight," Brey said. "What we really tried to do the last couple days was work offensively and be better screeners. ... We really worked on our big guys getting touches close to the bucket and pounding away on people."

Notre Dame hosts Kentucky Thursday as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge.

The Irish (5-1) never trailed as their winning streak over the Red Flash hit an even dozen.

Eric Atkins and Cameron Biedscheid each scored 13 while Jerian Grant each added 11 for Notre Dame.

Umar Shannon scored 14 points while Ollie Jackson added 12 for the Red Flash (0-5), which has dropped 12 straight to Notre Dame -- all in South Bend -- in a series dating back to 2000.

St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel said the Notre Dame's superior size was difficult to counter.

"Their size affected our ability to finish," he said. "On the defensive side of the basketball they did a great job getting the ball to their big guys and establishing a presence down there."

But Brey said his team's perimeter and free-throw shooting needs to be better. The Irish were eight of 18 from behind the arch and just five of 13 from the free-throw line.

"We're going to have to shoot it better from both of those lines to be productive offensively," he said. "Thank God we can depend on our defense because there have been nights -- against Evansville -- we had to win it just with our defense."

With campus shut down for Thanksgiving weekend and a big football game later that night at USC, the game drew a light crowd announced at 6,174.

The Irish never trailed as Biedscheid collected three 3-pointers in the first 8:03 for a 20-7 lead. Atkins had a game-high 11 points while Biedscheid added nine in the opening half as Notre Dame opened a 35-23 lead.

The lead reached 51-36 on Biedscheid's fourth 3-pointer with 13:13 remaining. St. Francis closed briefly to within 12 before the Irish used an 11-0 run to open a 62-39 lead on Cooley's turn-around hook shot with 7:12 to play.

St. Francis never got closer than 17 points the rest of the way.

The road loss was the ninth straight for the Red Flash going back to the 2011-12 season.

"We knew what to expect coming in here with a Notre Dame team that's the most physical and had the most size of any team we've seen to date," Krimmel said. "They certainly willed their style, especially for a stretch in the second half on both sides of the basketball."

Brey, now 44-0 in November over a 13-season Irish career, made one change in a lineup that had started five previous games. Sherman got the nod in place of Scott Martin, out with a sore knee but could return Monday.

The Irish host Chicago State Monday in the third of five straight home games. St. Francis is idle until Saturday at American.

Notes: Notre Dame is 27-0 against Northeast Conference, including a mid-month 95-72 victory over Monmouth. ... Saturday's decision was the 22nd straight non-conference home win and 63rd in the last 64 starts. The last Irish non-conference loss in that span was on Dec. 12, 2009, an 87-85 setback to Loyola Marymount. ... Despite a winless start, guard Umar Shannon has provided a spark for the Red Flash. Shannon, a redshirt junior who sat out 2011-12 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, scored a breakout 24 points in an 85-76 home loss last Wednesday against Colgate. ... Notre Dame dropped out of the top 25 following a Nov. 16 loss to St. Joseph, but is still receiving votes in both national polls. ... St. Francis was picked to finish 12th in the Northeast Conference while Notre dame is tabbed third in the Big East.
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