Jack Cooley scored the first nine points of the game and finished with 19 and Scott Martin pulled down 17 rebounds as the No. 22 Notre Dame men's basketball team beat Evansville, 58-49, in the preliminary round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in South Bend, Ind., the season-opener for both teams.
Jerian Grant added 11 points for Notre Dame, which limited Evansville to 31 percent shooting from the floor. Colt Ryan led Evansville with 15 points.
"That was basically a Big East game, how physical it was in there," said Cooley, who added 11 rebounds and six blocks. "It was a little unexpected because of their size, but they just came out and they played hard."
Although he wasn't thrilled with Notre Dame's 13 turnovers, Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey said he liked what he saw from his team. He praised Cooley's start and Martin's work on the boards, but credited the entire team's defense with the win.
"That's the only way we won the game tonight -- 31 percent shooting by them," Brey said. "I thought Pat Connaughton did a fabulous [defensive] job making Ryan and [Evansville] work for everything [they] got. And I thought when we got a little pressure on us, when it got to two possessions, our offensive efficiency was smart. We had to work to win, and I love that the first game of the season."
Evansville coach Marty Simmons said the Irish are "very talented and unselfish. If you double here they're going to make the extra pass. They can make perimeter shots. They're very good off the dribble. When you play here they've just got a long tradition. They're a good basketball team."
Notre Dame hosts Monmouth Sunday night, then travels to Brooklyn next weekend for games against St. Joseph's and either Florida State or BYU.