LAFAYETTE — David Thibodeaux coach Vincent Hicks said he placed major emphasis on being ready to play a tough Notre Dame team Tuesday night.

So when the Bulldogs were down four halfway through the first quarter, Hicks said he needed a spark plug to get them going.

“Notre Dame came out physical with energy and ready to go,” Hicks said. “They were up for the challenge. We came out lax and it showed. Tonight, (Najja Engleton) took the challenge, and he didn’t want to let the game go down like it was. He wanted the ball in his hands. He took control.”

Engleton led all scorers with 20 points, including two 3-pointers. Hicks said Engleton’s play down the stretch was key to the Bulldogs’ 58-46 victory over Notre Dame.

“(Engleton) is a great creator,” Hicks said. “He creates his own shot and gets to the goal. He is very apt at getting to the free-throw line and hitting jumpers, and he’s been doing that since he was a freshman.

“We have a heck of a basketball team. We just have to learn how to start games off right. If we don’t, a team that wants a quality win against a quality opponent will come in here and take it to us.”

Hicks said he was pleased with his team’s intensity level in the second half. He said the key to stopping Notre Dame was to take Ethan Smith out the game.

Smith finished with 18 points, but 12 of those came in the first half and zero in the third quarter, when the Bulldogs held the Pios scoreless until the 3-minute mark

“We had to focus on (Smith) more,” Hicks said. “He was an ox in there. He was killing us on the offensive glass, and he was scoring some big points in the paint. We wanted to get him out, and we were trying to match that strength but we just couldn’t. He’s a great player.”

Hicks said playing a physical game like they were in Tuesday will only make David Thibodeaux tougher down the stretch. Hicks said it’s gratifying to see where his team is and he believes the sky is the limit.

“Every game we play, win or lose, we learn something about ourselves,” Hicks said. “(Tuesday) we had to learn to be more physical.

“When we are playing our best, we have energy, guys have smiles on their faces and they have enthusiasm in the game.

“If this team can play a complete four quarters and bring it all together, we can do something special.”