November 28, 2015

Notre Dame isn't playing for the title of the AdvoCare Invitational, but it has a chance to leave the "Happiest Place on Earth" feeling good about itself.

Though it likely won't be easy, the No. 17 Fighting Irish can conclude the event with a winning record by beating an Alabama team that's looking to knock off a second straight ranked opponent in the fifth-place game Sunday night near Orlando, Florida.

After blowing an eight-point halftime lead by shooting 38.7 percent in the second half and committing 14 turnovers during Thursday's stunning 70-68 loss to Monmouth, Notre Dame (4-1) regrouped a day later to win 68-62 over Iowa at the Walt Disney World complex.

"It's funny how 24 hours in these tournaments, things can turn around," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "And we have a chance to win against a power conference team on Sunday.

"Getting out of Disney 2-1 after (Thursday) night … Merry Christmas. It'd be pretty good."

V.J. Beachem scored 16 points as the Irish overcame an early seven-point hole to lead by as many as 17 en route to a much-needed victory. After allowing Monmouth to shoot 45.2 percent in the second half, Notre Dame held the Hawkeyes to 37.9 overall and committed seven turnovers.

"We're trying to figure out who we are," Brey said. "To bounce back and get an Iowa team, well, God, that's a good night for this group."

In his first season as a starter, the 6-foot-8 junior Beachem has totaled 30 points, gone 8 of 19 from 3-point range and pulled down 14 rebounds in the two tournament games.

''He has answered the bell down here both nights," Brey said. ''I just think he's really confident. He's defending, he's rebounding, he's making big shots. He really feels like he belongs as a starter.''

Brey can use another solid effort from Beachem against Alabama (3-2), which rebounded from Thursday's 64-45 defeat to No. 23 Xavier by beating 20th-ranked Wichita State 64-60 on Friday

Though the Shockers played without injured star Fred VanVleet and were left shaken after forward Anton Grady was carried off on a stretcher late in the second half following a face-first fall, the Crimson Tide took advantage and snapped a 22-game skid against Top 25 teams by beating one away from home for the first time since November 2009.

''This was a team victory,'' said first-year coach Avery Johnson, who broke into a locker-room dance after his team held the Shockers to a season-low 31.1 percent shooting. ''I'm proud of them.

"With our team, on and off the court, everything's an evaluation."

The Tide have shot 35.1 percent and gone 10 of 48 from 3-point range in the last two games, but remained competitive by holding both tournament opponents to 34.8 percent from the floor.

Shannon Hale had 20 points, Riley Norris scored 12 off the bench and each hit key free throws in the final 36 seconds Friday. Hale is averaging 16 points and shooting 16 of 32 in the last three contests.

Alabama last won back-to-back games against ranked opponents away from home during a three-game run while advancing to the 2004 NCAA Tournament regional finals.

Notre Dame won the most recent meeting between the schools, 99-85 on Dec. 7, 2006.

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