Notre Dame concluded the exhibition portion of its 2011-12 season by downing Stonehill College, a member of the Northeast-10 Conference, by a final count of 92-70. The game was played at Purcell Pavilion in Notre Dame, Ind.
The scrappy Skyhawks actually got off to a decent start and led 8-4 after Andre Tongo banged down an open three-pointer with 15:58 left in the first half.
But it soon became evident that no one on the visitor's side had an answer down low for Irish power forward, Jack Cooley, who made several big lay-ups and put-backs as the Irish built a 26-17 lead.
Once they had established themselves underneath the basket, Notre Dame began to find their sharpshooters on the perimeter. From there, they were able to put the game away early by knocking down some sweet wide open threes.
By the time fifth-year senior Tim Abromaitis drained yet another three at the 5:50 mark of the opening half, the Fighting Irish had built an insurmountable 36-19 lead.
By halftime they had stretched the advantage to 49-29. Notre Dame finished the night a healthy 12-19 from beyond the arc.
The second half was not as much a game as it was an audition for several Irish players. With the departure of Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough, along with Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott, head coach Mike Brey has some huge high tops to fill if the Irish plan to return to the NCAA Tournament.
Brey is not worried about silky sophomore point guard Eric Atkins, the bruising Cooley or his bona fide superstar, Abromaitis.
He's also pretty sure that he can count on senior guard/forward Scott Martin, who didn't play for a second straight exhibition game while nursing a sore ankle. After that the Irish sort of get into a grey area in terms of player experience and production.
Junior guard Joey Brooks proved to be a solid defender but looks raw and unpolished on the offensive end at times. He finished with six points in 22 minutes. Northbrook, Ill. product Alex Dragicevich impressed on 6-for-6 shooting, including three 3s.
He looks like a viable option for extended minutes. Off guard Jerian Grant, who had to sit out last season with an injury, looks like a decent compliment to Atkins as he poured in 11.
True freshman Pat Connaughton has adapted well to the speed and flow of the game and looks unruffled on the college hardwood. He chipped in seven points.
Notre Dame opens the regular season November 12th against the Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State. They'll have to soldier on with out Abromaitis, who will have to sit out the first four games of the regular season after misinterpreting an NCAA red shirt rule.
They should have Scott Martin back, however, and the competition is not all that stiff. The Irish also host Detroit, Sam Houston State and Delaware State.
Abro will return for the Progressive CBE Classic on November 21st in Kansas City. The Irish will need him when they tackle host team Missouri.