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Men’s Basketball: Georgia Southern first up in regular season

Mike Gotimer | Friday, November 12, 2010

Notre Dame kicks off its regular season against Georgia Southern Friday in its first Division I game of the post-Harangody era.

Although the Irish will be without one of the greatest players in program history, Irish coach Mike Brey knows that his team is up to the challenge of playing without Harangody.

“One of my themes for this group has been, ‘We did it for six games in 2009-10 without Luke, now can we do it for six months?'” Brey said before the season to und.com. “I am excited and feel good about what this group can accomplish this year.”

In order for the Irish to be successful this season, they will look to a number of newcomers to fill in production voids left by the departures of Harangody and former point guard Tory Jackson. Entering the season, Brey said getting senior guard Scott Martin up to speed with Notre Dame’s returning starters was a top priority.

“Our five guys that start are pretty good together,” Brey said. “They’re kind of at one level and they probably should be because they’ve been in our program for three or four years, and they’ve all been in college four or five years and certainly that’s a great advantage.”

“I think the first thing is Scott Martin has learned to play well with them and they’ve learned to bring Scott Martin along because they know how much we need him,” Brey continued. “That was the first order of business as we got into practice — getting him comfortable, getting him confident.”

The Irish are also looking for freshman guard Eric Atkins to contribute while running Notre Dame’s offensive attack.

“I’m really thrilled with where [Atkins is] at — he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Brey said.

Georgia Southern, who plays in the aptly named Southern Conference, has never faced Notre Dame, but the Irish are 19-1 all-time against Southern Conference foes. The team’s only conference loss was a 54-51 loss to Davidson in the 1982-83 season.

The Eagles won their lone exhibition game 59-55 against Fort Valley State last Friday. In that game, they started three freshmen along top with junior Ben Drayton III and senior Rory Spencer, Georgia Southern’s second and third ranked returning scorers. Top scorer Willie Hanson didn’t play in the contest.

On Sunday, Notre Dame will face Liberty for their second matchup in as many years, with the Irish winning 91-72 last season. The Flames return a young squad that features just five upperclassmen. Their top returning player is junior captain Jesse Sanders, who started all 31 games for the Flames a year ago, and sophomore guard Evan Gordon, Liberty’s top returning scorer with 12 points per game and brother of former Indiana standout Eric Gordon.

The Irish will tipoff against the Eagles at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Sunday at 2 p.m. against Liberty at the Purcell Pavilion.