Senior Aaron Armstead added 13 points, including four three-pointers, and senior Pete Rakocevic chipped in 10 points off the bench for NIU.
“(Notre Dame) is a good team,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I thought both teams came out and fought, but there is a reason why they are a top-16 team in the country. They are very deep, very unselfish, they are good shooters and they spread you out, which makes them tough to guard.
“(Darrell) Bowie is always consistent for us, he had a good night with 15 points and five rebounds, but I thought our bench gave us a lift. Rakocevic and (Aaron) Armstead combined for 23 points and we would take that any night.”
After a basket by the Fighting Irish pushed the lead to four, NIU scored seven of the next 10, including a triple from Aaron Armstead to even the contest with 12:23 to play before the intermission.
A trifecta from sophomore Michael Orris evened the game again, 21-21, before Notre Dame used a 12-4 run to take a 33-25 lead with just over seven minutes to play before the intermission.
A pair of buckets from Rakocevic trimmed the Irish lead to a half-dozen, 35-29, but Notre Dame responded with the next seven to take a 13-point lead just under four minutes before the break.
A three from junior Travon Baker and a free throw from Bowie helped cut the Notre Dame lead to 10 until Jerian Grant made a contested three just before the intermission to give Notre Dame a 48-35 lead at the break.
Grant led all scorers with 11 points while Bowie led NIU with nine in the opening 20 minutes. NIU forced seven first half turnovers, Notre Dame came into the contest committing just 8.8 turnovers per game, second-best in the country. The Fighting Irish finished the contest with 11 giveaways.
NIU (4-5) shot 48.4 percent (15-of-31) from the field in the first half but couldn’t keep pace with Notre Dame who shot 63 percent (17-of-27) in the opening 20 minutes. The Fighting Irish came into the contest shooting a nation-best 55.3 percent on the season.
Sophomore Aaric Armstead knocked down a three and Bowie converted a coast-to-coast layup as NIU cut the Notre Dame lead to 13, 59-46, with 15:15 left, but Pat Connaughton answered with a triple for Notre Dame to push the Fighting Irish lead to 16 and Notre Dame never looked back.
Connaughton finished with a game-high 21 points, including five three-pointers, as all five starters scored in double figures for Notre Dame. Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson added 16, Grant finished with 11 and Steve Vasturia chipped in 10 for the 16th-ranked Fighting Irish.
Following a break for the Christmas holiday, NIU will return to action on Monday, Dec. 29, when the Huskies host Hampton. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m., at the NIU Convocation Center and will be shown live on ESPN3.
(NIU Athletics/MRO Edit)