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Men’s Basketball: Surviving the Scare

Eric Prister | Monday, November 14, 2011

Notre Dame’s win streak in the Purcell Pavilion is still alive — but just barely.

Down eight points with 14 minutes to go, the Irish went on a 14-0 run to take a 47-41 lead over Detroit, one they never relinquished on their way to a 59-53 win Monday night. It was Notre Dame’s 21st win in a row at home.

“We had to grind it out in the second half,” sophomore guard Eric Atkins said. “But we pride ourselves on not losing in this building. We always knew we were going to come back. Down eight seems like down two here. It doesn’t really feel like anything – one stop, get the crowd into it. We just had a total team defensive game for us.”

Atkins and senior Joey Brooks led the Irish in scoring with 13 points apiece. Brooks added nine rebounds and also guarded Detroit sophomore guard Ray McCallum throughout the game. McCallum, who finished the game with 22 points, scored 12 on four three-pointers in the first seven minutes of the game, but was relatively quiet on the court for the rest of the game. He picked it back up in the last minute, but by point, the game was well out of reach.

“Joey’s playing so well,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for a guy who’s battled like heck to find his niche in our program. But he’s guarding McCallum, he’s rebounding the ball, he’s screening, being the rock out there, being the voice.”

The star of the second half for the Irish was freshman guard Pat Connaughton, who after recording no points and just one rebound in four minutes of play in the first half, sparked Notre Dame with 10 points and eight rebounds after the break. He scored seven straight points in a minute of play for the Irish down the stretch to help seal the win.

“I was really proud of Pat tonight,” Brooks said. “He did a great job, giving us energy plays, sneaking around, getting easy layups. Rebounding, he did a great job of rebounding. So I’m just really proud of him. Honestly, we just want to keep taking baby steps, getting better and better.”

Sophomore guard Jerian Grant also scored double-figures for the Irish with 11 points on three of six shooting from beyond the arc, and junior forward Jack Cooley grabbed eight rebounds.

“Early in practice, the first week or two, if the offense was going good, [our defense] could hang our head a little bit,” Brey said. “But I thought tonight, that’s a heck of a thing to build on, just to be mature enough to defend when we were laboring to score. But we just kept going back and defending. I just think for November, to see that tonight, I really think that’s something to build on. I’m really proud of our group.”

After two quick layups from Connaughton and a three-point-play from Cooley cut the Detroit lead to three with just under 13 minutes left in the game, senior guard Scott Martin, who had not scored all night, connected on a three-point attempt to bring Notre Dame even, and the Irish never looked back.

“We did it with [defense,]'” Brey said. “That was a great win for our group. I don’t know if I’ve been prouder of a group, given who they are trying to find themselves to beat a very good basketball team. We really had to defend and we really had to get through tough stuff throughout the game when things didn’t look good. And we really responded well.”

The Irish were without fifth-year forward Tim Abromaitis, who is serving a four-game suspension due to eligibility issues. Abromaitis will serve the third game of his suspension Wednesday when the Irish take on Sam Houston State at 7:30 p.m. in the Purcell Pavilion.

 

Contact Eric Prister at eprister@nd.edu