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Men’s Basketball: Grant’s 20 points not enough for ND in D.C.

Eric Prister | Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sophomore guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, both from the Washington, D.C. area, combined for 36 points in their return to the nation’s capital.

But their efforts were not enough for the Irish, who dropped their second straight road game Sunday to Maryland 78-71.

Grant led the Irish with 20 points, to go along with four rebounds and three assists, while Atkins chipped in 16 points in 40 minutes of play.

“I think for them, that’s a little bit of what we’ve always envisioned with these two,” Irish coach Mike Brey said to UND.com. “Coming back home, I was worried about them being distracted, but they played their hearts out. They really wanted to win and they wanted to beat Maryland. But those guys really competed, and that’s something to build on for us too for down the road … Hopefully we can keep that going.”

The Irish started out quickly, taking an 8-1 lead to start the game, but Maryland stormed back, taking a 26-25 lead with six minutes left in the first half, a lead it never relinquished.

“Well, we’re disappointed that we couldn’t get the win,” Brey said. “For this group, after [the loss at Gonzaga], getting pushed around out there, I felt we had something to build on. We battled and tried to give ourselves a chance to win. Some young guys made some big plays, and we made some boneheaded plays too, like young guys without experience will do.”

The Irish took the court without junior forward Jack Cooley, who stayed in South Bend with a virus. Brey said that because of injuries and inexperience, he is looking for small victories from his team.

“For us, I was very interested to see what we’d be like for 40 minutes, and we were competing and trying and doing our thing,” he said. “I told them, ‘We are in a mode of very little steps with this team. I just want to come back and have a really good practice on Tuesday, a really good practice on Wednesday. We need to have two good days and let’s see how we play on Thursday. That’s all we can bite off right now.”

The Irish shot 52 percent from the floor in the second half, but Brey said in the end, the difference was hustle.

“But I think the big thing was that we didn’t get loose balls, and that’s where we’ve got to get better,” he said. “If you get enough loose balls, you’re going to have a chance to win it. But when you’re hoping it’s coming to you, then it’s just not tough enough. Maryland was tougher than us with loose balls, and they really deserved to win the game.”

The Irish return to the Purcell Pavilion for a two-game home stand. They will take the court Friday against Maine before facing Dartmouth on Sunday, both at 7:30 p.m.

“We have a lot of things to work on as we get back home for two games,” Brey said. “For us, for this group, it’s good for us to come back and play at home twice. That home court has always been a good kind of medicine for us when we go back there.”


Contact Eric Prister at eprister@nd.edu