Senior Jack Cooley posted a game-high 19 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking six shots, as No.22 Notre Dame defeated Evansville, 58-49, in the season opener for both teams.
Cooley shot 5-of-7 from the field, connected on 8-of-14 free throws and was just one of two scorers in double-figures for the Fighting Irish (1-0), who fell to Xavier in the second round of NCAA Tournament last season.
Jerian Grant added 11 points in the victory for Notre Dame, which remained undefeated in season openers under head coach Mike Brey.
"I'm pleased with our win because I think we beat a really good team," said coach Brey. "That's a win that can be part of our resume."
Colt Ryan led Evansville with 15 points, while Ryan Sawvell notched a double- double with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Purple Aces (0-1), who had come in as victors in their previous four season openers.
"I thought Notre Dame really made it hard for us to score," said Evansville coach Marty Simmons. "They are long and very athletic, they close out and they communicate well. They are not easy to score against and I think we got frustrated at times and we kind of gave into that instead of staying with the offense."
Notre Dame was in control the entire game and hardly ever trailed. The Fighting Irish took a 6-4 lead on pair of Cooley free throws less than four minutes in and never looked back.
Jordan Nelson drained a 3-pointer for the Aces to cut their deficit to three at 14-11, but Notre Dame began to pull away after that. Pat Connaughton buried a three with 6:11 remaining in the period to give the Fighting Irish a 10- point advantage at 23-13, which was cut to seven by halftime when Evansville closed within 28-21.
A three-point play by Ryan cut the Purple Aces' deficit to 32-26 early in the second half, but Notre Dame responded with a 5-0 run to reclaim a double-digit lead five minutes into the period.
Back-to-back scores brought Evansville to within seven at 43-36, but they never pulled any closer the rest of the game.
The contest marked the first of two preliminary round games of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic ... The Irish return to action Monday against Monmouth, while Evansville will play Buffalo on Thursday ... The Irish improved to 90-18 in season openers and 6-4 all-time against the Purple Aces.