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Notre Dame entered the Wheeling Hardwood Classic as the tournament’s favorite and top seed, and the No. 7 Dons wanted to make a strong opening-round impression on Thursday evening. Consider an impression made.
Notre Dame dominated the action from the opening tip to the final buzzer, outplaying Alcott in every phase of the game in a 91-39 win. The Dons had runs of 19-6, 10-2 and 30-6 during the game, allowing head coach Tom Les to empty his bench and rest his starters for what he hopes will be three more games in the next three days.
“We haven’t played in like 10 days, so it was a good game to get back settled in,” Les said. “Being the No. 1 seed, it kind of helps to kind of have a game where we can relax a little bit and work on a couple things.
The Dons (10-1) used a balanced attack offensive highlighted by sharp passing, with four players in double-figure scoring, led by Duane Stephens’ 16 points. Notre Dame scored inside — with Stephenson and Eddie Serrno (15 points) attacking the paint to get layups and mid-range jumpers — and outside, led by Matt Mooney and Donte Stephens (12 points each), who used outside shooting to spread the floor.
“You never want to come out flat and let teams hang around,” Mooney said. “We played too well at the start, and throughout the game, and just put them away.”
The Dons now advance to the tournament quarterfinals, clearly holding onto their title of favorites. Mooney, a senior, said the team is aware of the pressure they face to end the weekends as champions, but it’s a role they embrace.
“We’ve had a good start to the season, and teams have to respect us,” Mooney said. “They put us as the number one contender, and often times the number one contender doesn’t win the tournament, so we have to come out ready every night.”
Alcott (7-4) was led by D’Mori Scott’s 11 points.