Loyola coach Tom Livatino designed his defensive attack to limit the offensive skills of Notre Dame’s dynamic 1-2 scoring punch of shooting guard Joe Mooney and 6-6 forward Ammar Becar.
The other Dons lit up at the opportunity.
With the Ramblers deploying a triangle and two defense, Notre Dame’s supporting cast rose to the challenge. Led by 6-4 guard Lucas Simon, Notre Dame demonstrated a deep and versatile attack.
Simon scored 11 points and added five rebounds and four assists as nine Notre Dame players scored. The host No. 25 Dons limited the Ramblers to just three second half field goals in the 53-31 nonconference victory Tuesday night in Niles.
“We’re used to seeing those kind of defenses, with teams face-guarding Joe and Ammar, and it set up some chances for the rest of us, because there were a lot of holes there and we were able to exploit that,” Simon said.
Mooney scored a game-high 13 points and added four rebounds and three assists. He drilled consecutive jump shots during a 12-0 second quarter burst as Notre Dame (12-3) led by as many as 17 points (26-9) in the first half.
“Guys stepped up and found gaps and made shots, and that was really important,” Mooney said. “We were aggressive.”
Six players scored in the first quarter for Notre Dame. Elvin Husejnovic (six points) hit 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter and the opening of the second quarter.
With their tallest player, 6-5 Griffin Boehm, out for the year after surgery to repair a separated shoulder, the Ramblers are a perimeter oriented team led by standout shooters Brandon Danowski (seven points) and Michael Mangan.
Ramar Evans made two three-pointers in scoring 10 points. He sparked a 10-2 second quarter burst in concert with Mangan (team-best 11 points) that pushed the Ramblers (11-5) within 28-21 at the break.
“We felt good about where we were at halftime,” Livatino said.
Notre Dame’s length and reach on the perimeter allowed Loyola few open looks. Loyola managed only one basket, an Evans’ three-pointer, in the third quarter. The team also suffered six turnovers.
“The story tonight was our defense,” Mooney said. “We knew who their shooters were. We guarded really well and we didn’t give up second chance points or points in the paint. That was big for us because we were able to get out in transition.”
Notre Dame also forced six of Loyola’s 14 turnovers in the third quarter. Loyola shot just 4-of-20 on three-pointers.
“We shoot a lot of threes,” Livatino said. “We didn’t make very many tonight. We had a difficult time executing defensively what we were trying to do.
“I didn’t mind the three-pointers but what I didn’t like was how they got some of those baskets by driving and getting to the rim. We kindo of imploded there.”