SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Most basketball coaches will tell you rankings don't mean anything, especially at this point of the season.
Notre Dame (No. 25 AP) coach Mike Brey disagrees with that after his Irish moved into the Top 25 this week for the first time this season."At least it is for this team," Brey said after the Irish beat Indiana State 81-72 on Tuesday night. "I told the team yesterday that I was very proud of [being ranked]. You enjoy this moment. Understand it and use it to get yourselves confident."The motivational speech may have been enough to help Notre Dame avoid a "trap" game after winning the Old Spice Classic last weekend.Ben Hansbrough scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half for the Irish (8-0), who are off to the best start in the 11 seasons under Brey. The last time the Irish accomplished the feat was in 1973-74 when that squad went 12-0.After Notre Dame managed a 38-33 halftime lead, Hansbrough led the second-half charge with three 3-pointers."I am so proud of Ben," Brey said. "He did a great job on [Jake] Kelly in the second half and Kelly is a great player. Then, Ben let the game come to him. He got some stuff off the ball, got a couple of screens and then he knocked down the shots. He is such a mentally and physically tough guy. He is our leader. We have four captains but Ben has set a great tone for us."All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures. Tyrone Nash had 16 points, Scott Martin 15, Tim Abromaitis 13 and Carleton Scott 11.Dwayne Lathan had 22 points for the Sycamores (3-4), while Jake Kelly added 17, Carl Richard 14 and Myles Walker 10."This was a grind-it-out kind of game," Brey said. "Right now we need a little bit of rest. It is great that we are 8-0 but have you looked at our next eight? The last time I was 8-0 was when I played in a recreational league, or maybe my DeMatha High School JV team was 8-0, I don't know. But we are thrilled with the start. I think we are confident with where we are."Sycamores coach Greg Lansing said he was pleased with his team's improvement but not happy with the loss."We came up here with a good game plan and we planned on beating Notre Dame," he said. "Notre Dame's size, length, and strength affected us."The Sycamores hit five of their first six shots, including a 3-pointer by Lathan, and led 11-10 at the first media timeout. A 3-pointer by Kelly gave Indiana State a 16-12 lead before the Irish responded with seven straight points.Notre Dame was never able to get much distance between itself and the Sycamores until late in the first half when the Irish ran off a 7-2 run to take a 38-33 halftime lead.Martin led Notre Dame with 11 points at halftime, one more than Abromaitis. Kelly had 12 points for the Sycamores."We went bucket-for-bucket with Notre Dame which is something we don't really want to do," Kelly said. "But I do think our execution was very good in the first half."An 8-2 Irish run -- including 3-pointers by Abromaitis and Hansbrough -- to open the second half gave Notre Dame a 46-35 lead. The Sycamores hung around but a layup by Nash at the 11:23 mark capped an 8-2 run and put the Irish up 59-45 lead.The Irish play at No. 10 Kentucky on Dec. 8.