Pat Connaughton Leads No. 16 Notre Dame Over NIU, 91-66


There will come a time for Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton to pick between basketball and baseball. For the time being, basketball seems to be working just fine. Connaughton scored 21 as the No. 16 Irish took care of Northern Illinois 91-66 at Purcell Pavillion on Monday.

The Irish (12-1) entered leading the nation in field goal percentage at 55.3, improved on that stat hitting 58.9 percent from the field, including 12-of-28 from 3-point range. Notre Dame once again used a well dispersed scoring attack as all five starters scored in double digits.

The Huskies (4-5) kept up with the Irish early on, even tying the game up at 21 on a 3-pointer by Michael Orris. But the Irish would put together a 27-14 run to close the half, capped off by a step-back 3-pointer from Jerian Grant at the buzzer to put the Irish up 48-35.

It was in the second half that Connaughton made it his game. As the Irish increased their lead with a 19-14 edge to start the half, Connaughton accounted for a trio of 3-pointers, then added a layup on a fast break alley-oop to put Notre Dame up 67-48.

The Huskies Darrell Bowie had 15 points to lead the team, followed by Aaron Armstead with 13 points. The Huskies, led by former Tom Izzo assistant Mark Montgomery, hit 10 of their first 19 shots before the irish were able to pull away. Unlike the Irish, the Huskies have had a road heavy schedule to start, but have been competitive on the road. But without a win against a ranked opponent since Feb. 3, 1993, the odds were not in their favor.

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V.J. Beachem returned for the Irish, scoring eight points in 11 minutes of action. He had missed time due to a plantar fascia tear. His return gives coach Mike Brey another shooter, and an extra body headed into ACC play after the first of the year.

Entering tonight’s game, the Irish have four starters averaging double figures in scoring. Beachem can give them another scoring option of the bench that could be critical in league play.

Next Up: Notre Dame will host Hartford on Tuesday, December 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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