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Ayers, Notre Dame use 3-point barrage to sink South Dakota

Dec 3, 2008 - 5:17 AM SOUTH BEND, Indiana (Ticker) -- Ryan Ayers proved that Kyle McAlarney is not Notre Dame's only impact shooter.

Ayers demolished his previous career high, scoring 35 points as seventh-ranked Notre Dame trounced South Dakota, 102-76, on Tuesday.

Notching his previous high of 19 in Sunday's victory over Furman, the senior Ayers hit a career-best nine 3-pointers en route to his top performance.

Behind Ayers, the Fighting Irish set school records for 3-pointers made (19) and attempted (37).

"I feel like I should have paid for a ticket," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "I had a great seat."

Kyle McAlarney also starred from long range, adding seven 3-pointers and 27 points. It was the fifth straight game with at least five baskets from the arc made for the senior, who set an individual school record with 10 3-pointers in the 102-87 loss to top-ranked North Carolina in the title game of the Maui Invitational on November 26.

One of the premier sharpshooters in the nation, McAlarney has shot 26-of-48 (54 percent) from the arc over his last three games, averaging 32.7 points.

Notre Dame (6-1) made its first four 3-pointers in scoring the game's first 14 points and converted 9-of-10 in pulling ahead, 29-9, with just over six minutes expired.

"Last game we came out a little sluggish," Irish forward Zach Hillesland said. "In this building historically we're known for fast starts and I don't know that we've had a faster start than this. Before we knew it, we looked up and it was 20-2. We didn't even feel like we'd broken a sweat."

"They can really shoot it obviously and you spend so much effort on McAlarney trying to figure out where he is and it creates opportunities for others," South Dakota coach Dave Boots said. "In the second half, we got hurt in transition, but they are just really hard to defend."

Ayers had four baskets from the arc in that span en route to hitting seven and scoring 25 points in the first half to lead the Irish to a 60-30 advantage.

"In practice, I asked him, 'Where have you been?' because we need him to be aggressive," Brey said. "His teammates are on him to be aggressive. Because they stayed in the zone I thought he would get a lot of looks."

McAlarney added four 3-pointers before the intermission as Notre Dame shot 14-of-23 (61 percent) from deep in the opening 20 minutes.

South Dakota ended up playing into Notre Dame's hands by deciding to play zone.

"We knew they were going to play zone," McAlarney said. "I don't think we'll see much zone the rest of the year though. The way Ryan (Ayers) shot tonight. It's tough for teams to play zone against us because we always take the best shots possible. We had so many open looks, it was just a matter of stepping in and taking them."

"We tried some man too but that was a disaster," Boots said about playing zone. "We had no chance in that. The second half I thought we stayed in our base defense a little bit more and they didn't shoot it as well as they did in the first half. It was unbelievable how well they shot it in the first half."

The Irish made just one 3-pointer in the opening 11 1/2 minutes of the second half before Ayers and McAlarney combined for three in an 89-second span, grabbing an 89-59 cushion with 7:05 remaining.

"McAlarney and I had many shot opportunities," Ayers said. "We just have a lot of weapons out there and it's really hard to guard us."

Tyrone Nash scored nine points and eight rebounds and Tory Jackson added 10 assists for Notre Dame, which played its second straight game without Luke Harangody. The team's leading scorer and rebounder is sidelined with a case of pneumonia.

Despite the big loss, the Irish are averaging 99.0 points in their last three games.

Jesse Becker scored 24 points and Tyler Cain added 12 and seven rebounds for the Coyotes (3-5), who committed 20 turnovers.