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Irish men's hoops open NIT with win over Hampton

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - When Notre Dame men's basketball learned it wouldn't be in the NCAA Tournament, the team dedicated the rest of the season to winning an NIT championship.

That chase began Tuesday night with an 84-63 win over Hampton.

“You know, I thought we were excited to play and got over not making the NCAA tournament," said head coach Mike Brey after the win. I thought we really defended well against a team that’s a pretty good offensive group.”

While the Irish handled the Pirates with relative ease, there were still some learning moments, particularly with new experimental rules being used in this year's tournament.

The NIT features an expanded free throw lane and three-point lines, and the shot clock resetting to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of 30 seconds.

“It’s the way we like to play, with stretching the court out and passing the ball around and getting cuts," said TJ Gibbs, who scored 17 points. "You can see we got a lot of back cuts today with Rex, Marty and Matt. Just throwing the ball around and I love it.”

The biggest change, though, was the move to playing four quarters instead of two halves. Bonzie Colson was certainly fooled, momentarily jetting towards the locker room as if it were halftime when a buzzer sounded. The only problem? That buzzer designated the end of the first quarter.

“I was running out a little bit and the fans were kind of laughing," he said. "I was like ‘Oh, it’s just the quarter!’ Something we’re still getting used to, but I like the rules.”

Now, the Irish advance to the NIT's second round, where they'll play the winner of tomorrow's game between Penn State and Temple.

“We’re still playing, which is great for us," said Colson. "We’ll watch and scout them a little bit, figure out who they’re best players are, and their tendencies on both sides of the floor. I think it’s important for us.”

"You can start to see the route to get back to New York," said Brey. "I told them that’s one down, and two to go to the Garden.”

Since Notre Dame is the top seed in its region, the Irish will host each game until the semifinals in New York.

The game against Penn State or Temple will be played at noon on Saturday.

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