SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste showed he can dominate against an opponent with size.
Ten days after struggling in an overtime victory over Michigan State, Auguste had a career-high 26 points and added seven rebounds to lead No. 25 Notre Dame to an 83-63 win over Florida State on Saturday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
”I came and wanted to make a statement and just show people that I can bang with the bigs,” Auguste said.
Although Florida State has three players 7-feet or taller, the Irish (10-1) outscored the Seminoles 46-34 in the paint. Auguste was a big reason why.
”It was a huge day for him because the last high-level game he wasn’t very good,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said about Auguste’s 2-of-7 shooting with four rebounds against the Spartans. ”All he heard about was those big guys. For him to perform like that was great. He got us started scoring inside, and that was a key.”
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said the Seminoles weren’t ready for a player as mobile as Auguste, who was 11 of 15 from the field.
”It’s the first time we’ve played against a guy that moves around that athletic that plays the five position,” Hamilton said. ”We knew going into this game because they basically start four perimeter guys, a mobile five-man who is more of a power forward, it would be more of a challenge. It proved to be exactly the problem we had with this team.”
Auguste got help from guards Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson, who each finished with 18 points. Notre Dame took control with an 18-2 run midway through the first half. Grant and Jackson both scored seven points as the Irish went on a 20-4 run midway through the second half.
”They’re assassins,” Brey said. ”What they do to people and how they go after people, I’m so excited about what’s developing with those two guys. I’d certainly put them up against any backcourt in the country.”
Florida State (4-5) struggled without scoring leader Aaron Thomas, who was averaging 14.8 points a game. He was declared ineligible for the season Friday. Hamilton laughed when asked about missing Thomas, saying the Seminoles have been missing players all season because of injuries and illnesses.
”That’s part of what I call those basketball demons that raise their ugly heads during the course of the season,” he said.
Montay Brandon led the Seminoles with 14 points and Devon Bookert, who missed five straight games with a foot injury, added 11.
Brey said he pleased with how the Irish put the game away early in the second half.
”We talked about that at halftime. Could we put them away to start the second half? I’m really proud we did that,” Brey said.
Florida State dropped to 10-14 in ACC openers. The Seminoles play five more nonconference games before getting back into ACC play against Virginia Tech on Jan. 6.
Notre Dame is 9-0 at home this season after going 13-6 last season. The Irish play three more nonconference games before resuming league play against Georgia Tech on Jan. 3.
Florida State had a season-low eight free-throw attempts, making six.
Notre Dame, which leads the nation in field goal percentage, shot 50 percent or better for the 10th time in 11 games. Grant had five assists to become the sixth Irish player ever with at least 1,000 points and 500 assists.
Florida State hosts North Florida on Wednesday.
Notre Dame plays Purdue in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis on Dec. 20.