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Men’s Basketball: Notre Dame looks to bounce back vs. Maine

Andrew Owens | Wednesday, December 7, 2011

After dropping four of their last five games, the Irish return to Purcell Pavilion today desperate for a win against Maine.

The most recent Notre Dame loss came at the hands of Maryland on Sunday at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Irish sophomore guard Jerian Grant led Notre Dame (5-4) with 20 points and three assists in the 78-71 loss, while sophomore guard Eric Atkins scored 16 points and added two assists. Grant and Atkins are two key components of Notre Dame’s effort to replace fifth-year senior forward Tim Abromaitis, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

“I guess how we played [Sunday] maybe there’s a little less post feeds in the low post, not that we’re getting away from it altogether, and our [frontcourt is] ball-screening more for Eric and Jerian,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “With Eric and Jerian’s ability to get in there and make decisions and get fouled, we’ve told [the frontcourt] to come out and set screens for those guys.”

Maine (3-2) enters the contest after splitting two consecutive overtime games. The Black Bears lost at Eastern Illinois on Nov. 30 before defeating Rhode Island on the road Dec. 4.

The Irish will host Dartmouth on Saturday and then have a week off before playing in-state opponent Indiana at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Dec. 10. Notre Dame will host Sacred Heart in its final non-conference game of the regular season on Dec. 19. The remaining non-conference slate will be important for the team’s improvement before facing Big East opponents, Brey said.

“I guess it’s overall finding our identity a little bit with who we are offensively, who we’re going to be defensively, are we going to play more zone, I think that still has to be considered and looked at and I think the biggest thing is getting guys confident for the Big East season,” he said.

“We’re doing fine. We’re doing good. You know why we’re doing good? I don’t think the rest of the Big East has figured anything out either. Our league is not like last year. There’s a lot of people searching — us included.”

Big East play begins on Dec. 27 with a clash against No. 15 Pittsburgh. The Irish will play a total of six conference games before classes resume on Jan. 17, including home games against South Florida and No. 9 Connecticut, the defending national champions.

The Irish and Black Bears will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu