ND pummels Central in SEMO Conference Tournament

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Bulldogs cruised into the semifinals with an 86-37 victory.

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Notre Dame cruised through the season-opening Woodland Invitational and expected to face its stiffest competition Tuesday night in its opening game of the SEMO Conference Tournament against rival Central.

Less than a minute into the second quarter the Bulldogs had already raced to a 20-point lead and went on to crush the Tigers 86-37.

The third-seeded Bulldogs will face No. 2 Charleston at 7 p.m. in one semifinal, and No. 1 Sikeston will face No. 4 Jackson at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the other semifinal.

"We're going to have a rude awakening soon," Notre Dame coach Paul Hale said. "We'll play one of the top teams in Southeast Missouri in Charleston. It will be fun. Hopefully the kids accept the challenge and give it their all."

Ryan Willen, Notre Dame's lone returning starter, and Ty Williams each had 16 points at the break. The Bulldogs built a 57-18 lead by the half.

Notre Dame's pressure defense stifled Central and forced numerous turnovers. What was a 10-5 lead three minutes into the game, quickly turned into a 18-5 lead less than a minute later.

When the Tigers (1-2) did get the ball down the court, they often settled for outside shots. Central had little inside presence to counter the 6-foot-7 Willen.

"Maybe I didn't have them prepared for the pressure they present or their defense," first-year Central coach Drew Church said. "It's something our guys have to learn how to handle. Whatever they throw at us, we have to play our game."

William's third 3-pointer of the game pushed the score to 32-12 to start the second quarter, and less than three minutes into the quarter the Bulldogs already had the lead up to 45-14.

Seven players got into the scoring column in the opening half. Sophomores Austin Greer and John Unterreiner combined for 16 points. While many of Notre Dame's points came on easy baskets, the Bulldogs rarely missed when they had an open look at the basket.

"We shot the ball really well tonight," Hale said. "Any time you shoot the ball well it makes up for a lot of other things."

The lead did not drop below 40 points after the Bulldogs took a 61-20 lead with 6:42 remaining in the third. Willen pushed his total to a game-high 24 points in the third before sitting out the rest of the game.

Williams finished with 19 points for the Bulldogs, Greer had 12 and Unterreiner had 10. Nine players got into the scoring column for Notre Dame, and the Bulldogs finished nine-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Despite losing four starters, the Bulldogs are averaging more than 80 points through four games. The Bulldogs have also outscored their opponents by more than 50 points a game.

"We're starting some young kids, but we have a key returner back [in Willen] we can build around," Hale said. "We had a good JV team last year."

Central was led by sophomore George Hamilton's seven points. Tyler Terry added six points for the Tigers.

The Tigers are back in action tonight against New Madrid County Central in the consolation bracket.

"We're young," Church said. "We only have three or four guys that were on the roster last year. We'll go through games like that. It's about learning every game. You have to go through these times before you learn how to be good."

Charleston routed New Madrid County Central 72-38 in the other quarterfinal on Tuesday. The Bluejays are still without star forward Jamarcus Williams, who broke his leg during the football season.

"We need to play Charleston," Hale said. "We'll see what we have to do, what we need."

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