A strong performance by its star and solid defense were the keys for No. 22 Notre Dame against Evansville in Saturday's season opener.
Jack Cooley scored the first nine points of the game and finished with 19; Valparaiso High School graduate Scott Martin pulled down 17 rebounds, and the Fighting Irish beat the Purple Aces 58-49 in the preliminary round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Jerian Grant added 11 points for Notre Dame, which limited Evansville to 31 percent shooting (19 of 61).
Cooley got the Irish off to a quick start and it wasn't until he took his first breather 5:34 into the game that another Notre Dame player scored when Eric Atkins hit a jumper. Cooley had 13 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the opening half to help send the Irish into the break with a 28-21 lead.
Tasked with containing the senior preseason All-Big East selection was Evansville's 6-foot-8 sophomore center, Ryan Sawvell, who gave up an inch in height and nearly 50 pounds. Sawvell finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Colt Ryan led Evansville with 15 points.
"That was basically a Big East game, how physical it was in there," said Cooley, who added 11 rebounds and six blocks. "It was a little unexpected because of their size, but they just came out and they played hard."
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey limited Cooley's minutes somewhat in the second half after the center picked up his third foul on an offensive charge just 1:22 into the period.
Although he wasn't thrilled with Notre Dame's 13 turnovers, Brey said he liked what he saw from his team. He praised Cooley's start and Martin's work on the boards, but credited the entire team's defense with the win.
"That's the only way we won the game tonight — 31 percent shooting by them," Brey said. "I thought Pat Connaughton did a fabulous job making (Evansville leading scorer Colt) Ryan and his teammates work for everything he got. And I thought when we got a little pressure on us, when it got to two possessions, our offensive efficiency was smart. We had to work to win, and I love that the first game of the season."
This was the first of two games in South Bend comprising the first round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Notre Dame hosts Monmouth on Monday night, then travels to Brooklyn next weekend for games against St. Joseph's and either Florida State or BYU.
No. 15 Missouri 83, SIU Edwardsville 69: Laurence Bowers had 20 points and seven rebounds in his return from a knee injury that sidelined him all of last season, leading Missouri to a season-opening victory over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
Jerome Jones hit five 3-pointers and scored 17 points for SIU Edwardsville.
Missouri won its 66th in a row at home against nonconference opponents since the end of the 2005-06 season without guard Michael Dixon, who is suspended for violating team rules. Dixon, perhaps the best sixth man in the nation for last season's 30-win team, also did not dress in both exhibitions.
Butler 74, Elon 59: Rotnei Clarke scored 21 points, and Butler won its season debut.
Clarke, a transfer from Arkansas playing his first game for Butler, scored 12 of his points in the first half as the Bulldogs built a 43-26 lead.
Khyle Marshall added 14 points and Roosevelt Jones contributed nine rebounds and six assists for the winners.
The game was part of the Maui Invitational opening round played at campus sites.
Green Bay 72, Chicago State 67: Kiefer Sykes scored 31 points and Green Bay converted 41 of 48 free-throw attempts to beat Chicago State in the season opener for both teams.
Sykes was good on 17 of 19 shots from the charity stripe and also had seven rebounds and nine turnovers. Brennan Cougill added 10 points for the Phoenix, who beat Chicago State for the 13th straight time.
Jamere Dismukes led the Cougars with 18 points. Jeremy Robinson added 17 points and 10 rebounds.