Balanced scoring and lethal foul shooting allowed host Notre Dame to coast past Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday in the opening round of the Gotham Classic at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame never trailed and led by as many as 36. Freshman Nate Laszewski led the Irish, who placed five in double figures, with 12 points. Fellow freshmen Robby Carmody and Dane Goodwin finished with 11 and 10 points in their first collegiate games.
Notre Dame busted this one open by making a living at the foul line. The nation’s top foul shooting team two years ago, the Irish made their first 21 free throws, all in the first half, and finished 36-for-38 (94.7 percent).
Marcus Ottey led the Flames with 17 points. Tarkus Ferguson added 12.
Carmody became the first freshman to start the first game of the season since Torin Francis last did it in 2002.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey spent the week pondering what lineup to field at the start.
Coupled with the team’s three-game exhibition tour of the Bahamas in August and its two exhibitions, one a secret, don’t-know, can’t-tell affair with Cincinnati, the Irish had started 10 lineups — a different one in each half for all five practice games.
That revolving door likely will keep swinging all season. That’s what happens when Brey has as many new faces (six) as he does old. There’s a lot of unknowns, maybe more this season than at any time during Brey’s tenure.
Tuesday marked the 19th consecutive season that the Irish have opened at home with a win under Brey, but that will change.
This time next year, Notre Dame expects to be one of a handful of Atlantic Coast Conference teams that will open on the road with a league game to start the year.
“It sounded like a great idea in the ACC meetings,” Brey said. “Probably this time next year when we’re getting on the charter to play a tough road game, I’m thinking, I can’t believe I voted for that.”
—Field Level Media