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December 20, 2008

History could keep Irish sharp

Kyle McAlarney should make history midway through the second half.

The senior guard needs just 20 points to score 1,000 for his college career, a threshold likely crossed tonight against Delaware State inside the Joyce Center. Getting there has been as rigorous as it's been well-documented for McAlarney, suspended for the second half of his sophomore season following an arrest for marijuana possession.

But McAlarney's willingness to make amends paired with mediation by head coach Mike Brey helped make tonight's milestone possible. The fact it was never a certainty won't be lost on Brey when the guard from Staten Island, N.Y., scores his 1000th point. Only 48 players in school history have done it.

"Heck no, I'm not thinking we're in the position that we're in," Brey said, recalling his re-recruitment of McAlarney following the University's suspension. "I'm just hoping we can get him back."

"I'm glad he joins a special club here, he deserves it. It tells you how efficient he is. He missed all those games and he's still nailing it pretty early in his senior year."

McAlarney's scoring chase should provide 12th-ranked Notre Dame with a merciful sidebar against Delaware State, which at 2-12 could be the worst team the Irish play all season. The Hornets have already lost to Connecticut, Ohio State, West Virginia and Maryland, all by at least 28 points.

With the student body away on Christmas vacation it will force Notre Dame to find new ways to focus both tonight and Monday against Savannah State. That 41-game home winning streak carries the team only so far.

Big East play tips off Dec. 31 at DePaul.

"It will be a weird energy," said point guard Tory Jackson. "These next two games could be like Big East games for us. You never want to look over teams like this. These types of teams can come in and knock down 10 or 11 threes on you and you don't even notice it."

Not likely, although Notre Dame admits there's work to be done before jumping into college basketball's toughest conference. Last week's escape against Boston University highlighted this team's shortcomings on the boards, where the Irish were beaten 44-37 by the America East favorite.

Add rebounding to a two-game to-do list that includes finding minutes for reserve Tyrone Nash and developing a reliable third scoring option beyond McAlarney and Luke Harangody. Those aren't discoveries the Irish want to make during conference play. That means these games are more important than the typical clash against Multi-Directional State Tech.

"You want to see our guys come out focused and playing efficient, error-free game where we're moving the ball and playing well," said forward Zach Hillesland. "With this team I think we've seen so much and so much has been thrown at us already that we can kind of adapt to any situation."

But odds are tonight's main adaptation will come in the record books and feature McAlarney.

"I think it's going to be something special for him," Harangody said. "To do it at home will be kind of a neat experience."



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