Jack Cooley scored 14 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead No. 22 Notre Dame to an 85-57 victory over the Owls on Wednesday night.
Preston, in his second season at Kennesaw State, was an assistant under Notre Dame coach Mike Brey from 2000-06. This was the first time Brey faced one of his former assistants who is now a head coach.
“It’s good to be back in familiar territory. I just didn’t like being on the opposing side, especially in the second half,” Preston said.
Down by 14 in the first half, the Owls (1-9) rallied, and Markeith Cummings’ 3-point shot pulled them within 34-28 at the break.
Notre Dame (11-1) started the second half on a 19-5 run. Jerian Grant scored six points during the burst, and Cooley and Garrick Sherman each had four.
Preston invoked Charles Dickens’ classic novel while assessing his team, saying it like “A Tale of Two Cities.”
“But we are the tale of two halves,” Preston said. “We will play a great first half, bad second half, or a bad first half and a pretty good second half.
“So I am trying to find that level of consistency. It’s hard to do that with freshmen. When you are playing three or four freshmen double-digit minutes, you are going to take some lumps here and there.”
Aaron Anderson led Kennesaw State with 16 points and Cummings had 15.
Grant took a hard fall with 4:52 left to play after a collision with Kennesaw State’s Jordan Montgomery.
Grant stole a pass near midcourt and drove hard to the hoop before Montgomery fouled him while trying for the block. Both players crashed to the floor and were down for several minutes, and each went straight to the locker room without returning.
Preston said he didn’t condone the way Montgomery fouled Grant so hard, and said he planned to go check on Grant after the postgame press conference.
Irish coach Mike Brey said he thought Grant would be “very questionable” for Friday’s home game against Niagara, Notre Dame’s final contest before Christmas break, and the Jan. 8 Big East conference opener against Seton Hall.