Irish Rewind: Threes drop for Ryan Ayers, Notre Dame hoops

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Seeing the same guy he shares the rent with get into such a recent groove, Notre Dame senior captain Ryan Ayers decided to get his game in gear.

Coming off what had been a career-high 19 points two nights earlier, Ayers erupted for 35 on a career-best nine 3-pointers, one shy of the school record set last week by roommate Kyle McAlarney.

McAlarney added 27 points on seven 3s as No. 7 Notre Dame (6-1) connected on a school and Joyce Center record 19 baskets from 3-point distance in a 102-76 victory Tuesday over South Dakota (3-5).

This one was over early. Really early. Like don’t stop for popcorn and a soft drink on your way into the arena early.

The Irish scored the first 14 points in a 2:07 burst, and led 20-2 with 3:21 elapsed. The Coyotes needed two 30-second timeouts to settle down. Once they did, they were in too far of a hole against too good of a team to dig out.

Notre Dame tallied a season-high 28 assists, led by guard Tory Jackson's 10.

"I should have paid for a ticket tonight in the gold seats," coach Mike Brey said. "There's a lot of empty ones.

"I wish we could bottle that start. We got into a great rhythm early."

Fourteen Irish 3s came in the frenzied first half when it seemed they couldn't miss, and the Coyotes flat refused to come out of a soft matchup zone that really couldn't guard anyone in a home white uniform.

"We knew they were going to play zone," McAlarney said. "I don't think we'll see too much zone the rest of the year. With the way we move the ball, it's so tough to play us zone."

Ayers' career night included 25 in a first half that saw him hit 9-of-14 from the floor and seven of 10 from 3.

"I just felt a little more relaxed, more calm," Ayers said. "Once I hit one shot, I just kept rolling."

That mindset has been drilled into him every day in practice by teammates and by coaches. Especially since he disappeared in Maui for stretches in games against Texas and North Carolina. Each night, Ayers again hears it from McAlarney, who has preached for his classmate and fellow captain to keep shooting, even if one look doesn't fall.

Ayers often will turn down shots while McAlarney, who has hit 37-of-68 from 3 (54.4 percent) the last five games, looks to get a few more.

"Kyle's an assassin," Brey said. "I want (Ayers) to be a little more assassin-like. It's good that they live together. He knows what it's like living with an assassin."

The Irish led by as many as 31 in a first half that saw them shoot 60.9 percent (14-of-23) from 3.

"It was unbelievable the way they shot in the first half," said South Dakota coach Dave Boots.

Ayers connected on five of his first six shots, including all four from 3. He scored a quick 11 of 16 points in one stretch and had 14 less than five minutes in. The Irish were simply sizzling from behind the arc. Nine of their first 10 baskets in the first 5:23 were 3s.

"I don't know, I just had a great feel," Ayers said. "Every time I followed through, I knew it was going in."

It was Notre Dame's 40th consecutive home victory, the second-longest streak in the nation behind only Brigham Young (51).

All-American power forward Luke Harangody missed his second consecutive game with pneumonia. After spending Sunday's game at home in Schererville, Harangody was back on the bench in street clothes Tuesday. His status for Saturday's game against Ohio State in Indianapolis is uncertain.

"We're kind of day-to-day with him," Brey said of his leading scorer and rebounder, who has lost 12 pounds because of the illness. "I'm going to be really cautious. We're not going to do anything crazy Saturday if it's not a healthy situation."

* No. 6 NOTRE DAME 102, SOUTH DAKOTA 76 At South Bend SOUTH DAKOTA (76): Dylan Grimsley 2-10 1-7 5, Tyler Cain 5-10 2-2 12, Steve Smith 5-8 1-1 11, Louie Krogman 4-14 0-0 11, Jesse Becker 9-15 0-0 24, Mitch Begeman 1-3 3-3 6, John Kreklow 0-0 0-0 0, Rane Mergen 3-3 1-1 7, Ben Kreklow 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 29-64 7-7 76. NOTRE DAME (102): Zach Hillesland 2-7 2-4 6, Luke Zeller 3-9 0-0 8, Tory Jackson 0-6 2-2 2, Kyle McAlarney 10-16 0-0 27, Ryan Ayers 12-20 2-2 35, Tyrone Nash 4-7 1-2 9, Tom Kopko 2-3 0-0 4, Jonathan Peoples 2-7 0-0 4, Carleton Scott 2-3 2-3 7, Tim Andree 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 37-79 9-13 102. Halftime score: Notre Dame 60, South Dakota 30. Shooting: South Dakota 29-64 (45.3 percent), Notre Dame 37-79 (46.8 percent). 3-point fg-fga: South Dakota: Grimsley 1-7, Krogman 3-10, Becker 6-9, Begeman 1-3, Total: 11-29 (37.9 percent); Notre Dame: Zeller 2-5, Jackson 0-1, McAlarney 7-13, Ayers 9-14, Kopko 0-1, Peoples 0-2, Scott 1-1, Totals: 19-37 (51.4 percent). Total fouls (fouled out): South Dakota 13 (none), Notre Dame 9 (none). Rebounds: South Dakota 35 (Smith 8), Notre Dame 45 (Hillesland 9). Assists: South Dakota 21 (Cain 5), Notre Dame 28 (Jackson 10). Turnovers: South Dakota 20 (Cain 6), Notre Dame 12 (Hillesland 3, Jackson 3). Officials: Chris Beaver, Tim Clougherty, Brent Hampton. Attendance. 9,753.

Former Notre Dame guard Ryan Ayers, here playing against North Carolina in the 2008 EA Sports Maui Invitational, starts Monday in his new role as an Irish assistant coach.AP File Photo

Occasionally during the college basketball offseason, NDI takes a look back at a memorable Notre Dame game with a reprint of the story that appeared in the South Bend Tribune.

This Irish Rewind remembers the Dec. 2, 2008 regular-season game against South Dakota Sate when Notre Dame guard Ryan Ayers erupted for a career-high 35 points on nine 3-pointers, one shy of tying the school record set by his good friend Kyle McAlarney.

Ayers will be officially named an Irish assistant coach this week.

This story appeared in the Dec. 2, 2008 edition of the Tribune.

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