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Red-Hot Irish Win Big East Opener

So much for being rusty after a 15-day break from game action.

Scott Martin drilled six of his seven shots beyond the three-point line to lead Notre Dame to a 93-74 victory against Seton Hall.

The beat, and shooting rhythm, went on for Notre Dame in men’s basketball after cruising to a 93-74 victory against Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon in the Purcell Pavilion to open its Big East season. Head coach Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish shot 57 percent from the field (61 in the second half), handed out 25 assists compared to just eight turnovers, and held a 37-30 advantage on the boards.

“That’s maturity,” Brey told the Notre Dame Basketball Network after the game of his veteran team. “They’re very business-like, very matter of fact. They don’t try to re-invent themselves. They know what works. We were amazingly efficient offensively today … We were good enough defensively against a bunch of guys that can score and shoot the ball.”

The No. 21 Irish (No. 19 in the Coaches poll) improved to 13-1 overall while winning their 17th straight home game and 46th in their last 47. Notre Dame won its 11th straight game overall this season and extended its winning streak at home against the Pirates (12-3, 1-1 in Big East) to seven.

Sixth-year senior Scott Martin opened the second half with four three-pointers in as many attempts in the first 4:30 to blow open the contest and give the Irish a 66-43 cushion. Martin entered the game fifth in the Big East in three-point shooting percentage and finished 6-of-7 beyond the arc.

Martin, who tallied 22 points, one short of his career high, is now shooting 50 percent (27-of-54) from three-point distance. Brey said Martin has always had such an unselfish, all-around game that he wanted him to concentrate mainly the past off-season on improving his shooting consistency from the perimeter. Martin was only 30-of-115 last year from three-point range — a .261 percentage.

“We needed him to be a threat out there and stretch people out,” Brey said. “At the clip he’s shooting it now, he gives us another weapon. He’s hard to defend when he steps out …You’re seeing a guy who’s extremely confident in his shot — and his teammates are, so we’d love to see that confidence going for another two months.”

Notre Dame and Seton Hall entered the contest 1-2 in the Big East in three-point shooting percentage with .387 and .385 marks, respectively, but the Irish were overwhelmingly superior in that category Saturday afternoon. Brey’s team finished 12-of-18 (.667), while the Pirates were only 11-of-31 (.354). The Irish carved up the 2-3 zone of Seton Hall, a strategy it needs to employ with only eight available scholarship players on the roster.

Meanwhile, senior double-double machine Jack Cooley recorded his 10th in 14 games (19 points and 14 rebounds, six on the offensive end), placing him second nationally in that department. The typically balanced Notre Dame attack also received a double-double from junior point guard Eric Atkins— 17 points and 10 assists — and 13 from classmate Jerian Grant, who also dished out eight assists.

Cooley nearly had a double-double in the first half, scoring 12 points and grabbing eight rebounds to spark a 44-36 lead at the intermission. Atkins also was stellar with 14 points in the first 20 minutes. He opened the game with a three and closed the half with another trey (he was 3-of-3 outside the arc) and a drive. In the second half, when the Seton Hall defense dictated it, Atkins became more of a distributor.

In his Big East debut, freshman Cameron Beidscheid came off the bench to drill his first two three-point attempts. One of them aided a 10-2 Notre Dame run that provided it the largest lead in the first half, 35-25.

Seton Hall attempted more than 50 percent of its field-goal attempts beyond the three-point arc in the first half, missing eight in a row at one point when the Irish changed to a 2-3 look.

“I thought we did a good job when we went zone, we changed the rhythm of the game a little bit to give us that 8-10-point cushion,” Brey said. “…They were confident against our man-to-man.”

Notre Dame will have the first of its four Saturday-Monday turnarounds in conference play this year when it travels to No. 14 Cincinnati. The game was moved up to a 6:30 start on ESPN2 and should finish right around kickoff time for the Notre Dame-Alabama football game that will determine the national title.

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