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Men’s Basketball: Irish capture victory in final game of Abromaitis’ suspension

Eric Prister | Sunday, November 20, 2011

Irish coach Mike Brey said he was worried about getting through the first four games without his top returning scorer.

But in their final contest without fifth-year forward Tim Abromaitis, the Irish had four players reach double-figures on their way to a 93-69 win over Delaware State on Friday.

In addition to Abromaitis, Notre Dame also played without sophomore guard Eric Atkins and junior guard Joey Brooks due to illness, and was left with just seven active scholarship players.

“I’m happy that we got through and we’re 4-0 without [Abromaitis],” Brey said. “I did not expect that we were going to lose a couple other bodies too. I hope it’s a blessing in disguise ⎯ I think it will be because some other guys have had to play long minutes, and we found out about them and they made plays. I think it can help us in the future. I hope that future is Monday night.”

Senior guard Scott Martin recorded a career-high 23 points and added five rebounds to lead the Irish. He said that with Abromaitis out, different players have had to score for Notre Dame.

“[It’s going to be] a relief [to have Abromaitis back],” Martin said. “It’s been a little stressful. We’ve been a little worried where production was going to come from, so thankfully we had different guys stepping up on different nights. With [Abromaitis] back, it gives us different options offensively and defensively.”

Junior forward Jack Cooley recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end.

“That’s phenomenal,” Cooley said. “Seventeen ⎯ that’s a ton. I didn’t honestly keep track of it for a while until [assistant coach Martin] Inglesby told me, ‘You have 14,’ and I was like, ‘14 what?’ And he was like, ‘Rebounds,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, snap, I should get on that.’ He told me I should get 20, and I was like, ‘I got this.’ I got caught a little short, but 17 isn’t bad.”

Sophomore guard Alex Dragicevich and junior forward Mike Broghammer also tossed in career highs with 18 and nine points, respectively, and sophomore guard Jerian Grant matched his previous best with 17. Freshman guard Pat Connaughton made his first career start, scoring nine points to go along with seven rebounds in the victory.

“[We learned] about everybody, except maybe the veteran guys, especially Dragicevich, Grant, Connaugton, Brooks,” Brey said. “During this stretch, I think those four guys really gave us good stuff and they’re all going to be part of the dance. I think Broghammer, tonight, he was moving the best he’s moved in a while, and we’re going to need his physicality.”

Abromaitis’ return will likely not be an easy one, Brey said. The Irish will take on No. 25 Missouri in the semifinals of the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo., on Monday.

“We’ve got a heck of a challenge Monday,” he said. “They’re really good, really fast. We’ve got to change some tempo on them — ­­we can’t run around with them all 40 minutes. I knew we were going to play different guys without [Abromaitis]. I didn’t know it was going to be this much musical chairs. It’s paid off, and different guys have had to make plays, and we’ve still found ways to score the ball, which has been interesting to me. Again, it’s all good stuff, but I’m done with basketball camp, where everybody plays equal minutes. I want to get my nucleus back.”

Martin said it will be nice to have Abromaitis back, but the offense will not change upon his return.

“[The offense] doesn’t change at all,” he said. “The great thing about this system is everyone can step in and fill a role. We run the same things, we have smart players top to bottom, so guys are able to just step in and keep things rolling. [Abromaitis] is probably the smartest of all of us, so he’ll step in and keep it going.”

But one thing is definite: When the Irish take the court Monday night against Missouri at 7:30 p.m., Abromaitis will be on the floor with his teammates.

“The leg irons come off, baby,” Brey said. “He is free at last.”

Contact Eric Prister at eprister@nd.edu