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Notre Dame weathers Central's 14 3-pointers
Notre Dame claimed the season's only meeting between the rivals.
Notre Dame sophomore guard Nick Koeppel admitted that Central converted "an awesome amount" of 3-pointers against his team in the first half Monday.
Every time the Tigers scored one, a "3" sign was placed on the wall behind the student section, like baseball fans hang "K" signs when a strikeout pitcher is on fire.
Nine "3" signs hung on the Tigers' wall at halftime with the game tied 35-35. And Koeppel said Central's hot shooting was a main topic of discussion in the Bulldogs' locker room at the half.
"We wanted to try to contest them a lot because in the first half they hit nine [3-pointers], and that's an awesome amount," Koeppel said. "If we could stop them from doing that -- because that was most of their points -- then we could stop them from scoring."
The Bulldogs put more pressure on the Tigers' shooters in the second half.
And Notre Dame, with a size advantage over Central, also was successful working the basketball inside to forward Austin Greer and center Ryan Willen. The Bulldogs came away with a 66-60 win over its crosstown rival in front of a large and rowdy crowd at the Show Me Center.
Willen poured in a game-high 25 points and Greer netted 19 points in the victory.
Koeppel said it was important not only to stop Central's attack from the 3-point line, but also to get the ball inside to Willen and Greer.
The 6-foot-8 Willen was guarded much of the game by Central's Derek Walker, who is listed at 5-10.
"It was important [to find Willen and Greer] because we had a height advantage and we could score down there easily," Koeppel said.
Willen helped Notre Dame to an 18-8 lead in the first 5 minutes, 21 seconds of the game.
The senior center showed his ability to score both inside and outside, nailing a 3-pointer with 3:09 left to make it 16-8, and then driving to the basket to give his team an 18-8 advantage.
The Bulldogs led 20-16 after the first period, with Greer and Willen scoring 18 of Notre Dame's 20 points.
Central coach Drew Church said he had Walker guard Willen much of the night instead of 6-5 post player Zach Boerboom because Boerboom is returning from a concussion and Church did not want to play Boerboom much Monday.
The Tigers went on an 8-2 run over the last 1:45 of the first quarter with 3-pointers by Chase Johnson and Jajuan Bell and a layup by Bell just before the buzzer to bring their team within four points at 20-16.
The Tigers then converted five 3-pointers in the second quarter to help outscore the Bulldogs 19-15 and head into the break knotted at 35-35.
"We had to fight," Greer said. "It's hard to beat someone who hits 14 3s. Our game plan was to get the ball inside because they were a little undersized because they couldn't hold Willen down. Walker is barely 6 foot, I think. But I'll give them credit. They shot the 3 balls really good."
Bell scored four 3-pointers and Shane Nolen converted three in the first half.
"They are strong and stuff, and they can handle the ball," Koeppel said of Bell and Nolen.
Notre Dame went on a 7-0 run to start the third quarter, with Greer scoring inside and Ty Williams scoring a bucket then nailing a 3-pointer.
But the Tigers crept back in and trailed only 55-50 entering the fourth quarter.
Willen said Central continued to shoot well even with the Bulldogs ratcheting up the defensive pressure.
"They had a good shooting night," Willen said. "We had to put more pressure on the 3-point shooters, and they still shot it really well."
Greer and Willen, however, helped their team pull away for good in the fourth. Greer scored the first basket of the period 1:11 in to put the Bulldogs ahead 57-50. Less than a minute later, Willen received a pass inside, scored a basket and got fouled. He converted his foul shot to put Notre Dame on top 60-50.
"We tried to get in their faces a little bit and tried to shut that 3-pointer down," Greer said about the second half. "Our guards did a good job. They got the ball to Ryan, and he shot the ball well tonight. We got it inside and we put it in the hole."
Central's Bell said Notre Dame did get his team out of its offensive rhythm in the second half.
"They pressured, and their big man came out and contested all our shots," he said. "We were not feeling it as much."
Notre Dame (66) -- Nick Koeppel 8, Ty Williams 9, Mark Himmelberg 1, John Unterreiner 4, Austin Greer 19, Ryan Willen 25. FG 26, FT 7-10, F (3-pointers: Willen 4, Koeppel 2, Williams 1. Fouled out: none)
Central (60) -- Jajuan Bell 24, Anthony Watts 4, Chase Johnson 10, Shane Nolen 15, Garrett Pannier 3, Derek Walker 4. FG 21, FT 4-6, F 12 (3-pointers: Bell 6, Nolen 5, Johnson 2, Pannier 1. Fouled out: none)