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Men’s Basketball: Brey shows optimism as team heads to Maryland

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, December 1, 2011

If Spokane, Wash., was the frying pan, then Washington, D.C., may as well be the fire for the Irish. Notre Dame, fresh off a blowout 73-53 loss to No. 18 Gonzaga on Wednesday, will make a cross-country trip to take on a dangerous Maryland team Sunday.

The youthful Irish (5-3), whose roster only features one healthy senior compared to last season’s four, looked rattled at Gonzaga’s McCarthy Athletic Center, turning the ball over 17 times, including 11 times in the first 12 minutes. But Irish coach Mike Brey was optimistic after Wednesday’s game, praising the effort of his big men while realizing the team’s maturity will come with experience.

“Tom Knight gave us some good stuff and that is his first time in big-time action,” Brey said in a postgame radio interview with UND.com Wednesday. “And we have got to build on that. Jack Cooley too. Those guys battled.

“I think our maturity level is still something that has to come. The great thing is that we get back to practice Friday and can get better before we go on the road again to play Maryland Sunday.

“[We need] some more toughness, [to be] better with the basketball on Sunday, and I’d like to see the results then.”

To cut down on turnovers, the Irish will rely on sophomore guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, who Brey called the “BW (Baltimore-Washington) Parkway guards” after Sunday’s 84-59 win over Bryant at the Purcell Pavilion. Both playmakers come from the D.C. area and will return home to take on the Terrapins (3-3) as Notre Dame’s leaders in points and assists per game.

Grant and Atkins have each averaged 13.8 points per game through the first eight games and combined for 22 points against Gonzaga (5-0). But the “BW Parkway guards” also combined for 10 turnovers against the Zags, mostly due to the team’s inability to get open, Brey said.

“Jerian is maturing and getting older … But [we] kind of hung [Atkins] out to dry a little bit and Gonzaga contested us. It is really tough when you are dribbling out there without any receivers.

“This is a good test for our resiliency. We are going to be in some tough things and are trying to figure out who we are. How do we respond and come back the next game is where we are kind of at with this group day-to-day.”

Brey’s team will have to respond against a resilient Maryland squad hungry for a win after a 71-62 loss to undefeated Illinois on Tuesday. The Terrapins’ three losses have come against teams with a combined 18-1 record, including a 62-42 loss Nov. 17 against No. 12 Alabama.

Maryland is led by versatile sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin, who has averaged 24.5 points in his last four games.

Brey said his team knows what to expect from Maryland, especially after the shaky showing at Gonzaga.

“There are some things to build on and there are things we have to accept responsibility of being better at,” he said. “The book on us is going to be to pressure the heck out of us, which has kind of been the book on us for 10 years. Getting up on the ball and press is where we are going to really be tested.”

Notre Dame will take on Maryland at the Verizon Center in the BB&T Classic at 4:45 p.m. Sunday.


Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu