Following Flynt - 29 Straight at Purcell

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With football season wrapped up, Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) will be providing some insights on Notre Dame's winter sports, beginning with tonight's men's basketball game. Here's more on the action at Purcell Pavilion and Notre Dame's victory over South Florida.

The Irish men's basketball team took on the South Florida Bulls tonight in their first game of the new year back at the Purcell Pavilion. For Notre Dame football fans, a game against USF may evoke unpleasant memories of the 2011 football season opener and the nasty thunderstorm that led to two weather delays. And for some, a win on the hardwood might not cure the disappointment of a gridiron defeat, but a 29th consecutive home victory and a 3-1 start to the BIG EAST schedule certainly has to leave Irish basketball fans feeling good about Coach Brey's team.

Even after four years as a student and five months as an intern, I have to admit I am still unfamiliar with South Bend's high schools. I know the names of the schools, but that's about extent of my local school knowledge. On first glance, the black and gold uniforms made it look like the Purdue Boilermakers cheerleaders had taken over for the Irish, but it was in fact the squad from Penn High School in Mishawaka.

Musically, Clay High School's pep band took over for the Notre Dame band. Students will begin returning to campus this weekend, and hopefully some will fill Purcell for Saturday's showdown with the defending champion Connecticut Huskies.

Though much smaller than our band, the students from South Bend's Clay filled in nicely, even breaking into a rendition of Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," a well-known favorite among the ND student body.

Both squads jumped out to a slow start offensively, but as is often the case when the Irish play at home, the treys started falling. Scott Martin knocked down a jumper, before Jerian Grant hit a pair, and Alex Dragicevich and Pat Connaughton followed with threes of their own, to give the Irish an eight-point lead.

Connaughton also hit a tough floater from the lane at the buzzer to close out the first half and give the Irish a 30-24 lead.

The Bulls pulled to within two with just over 12 minutes to play, but that was as close as they would get in the second half. The Irish proceeded to go on a 14-0 run, capped by a monster dunk from Jack Cooley. After an emphatic scream, the junior forward was whistled for a technical foul, but the dunk brought the fans to their feet and all but ended the game. The lead reached 17 points with 4:10 to play and Notre Dame held on for a 60-49 victory.

Following Saturday's thrilling 2OT victory in Louisville, the Irish did what they needed to do tonight - they maintained momentum before heading into the heart of the BIG EAST schedule. With UConn on Saturday, a trip to Rutgers on Monday, and a visit from the currently undefeated Syracuse Orange next weekend, it does not get any easier for this tough  young Irish team.

From the box score... With 15 points and 13 rebounds, Martin posted his second consecutive double-double. Grant finished with 14 points, and Cooley led all scorers with 16 points and 7 rebounds.

Basketball has always been one of my favorite sports and I look forward to covering the Irish hoop teams this winter. I'll have more coming on Irish UNDerground throughout the season, beginning on Saturday morning at 11 am ET.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

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