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Men’s Basketball: Irish fall out of NCAA tournament

Douglas Farmer | Tuesday, March 20, 2012

GREENSBORO, N.C. – With 12 minutes left in Notre Dame’s season-ending loss Friday, sophomore guard Eric Atkins sank a 3-pointer to give the Irish a 10-point lead over Xavier. With 2.8 seconds left, Atkins sank a free throw, which he thought would cut Notre Dame’s deficit to one.

The former shot was Atkins’s biggest of the game, as his playing time was limited due to foul trouble. The latter was negated by a lane violation called on Irish sophomore guard Jerian Grant. Two additional Musketeers free throws ended the 66-63 NCAA second round game Friday.

“Shock and disbelief,” Grant said of the lane violation, in which he stepped inside the 3-point arc before the free throw reached the rim. “It hurts to lose on a call like that – I mean, we didn’t lose on that call, but it hurts to end the game like that.”

Ten seconds before the controversial call, Grant attempted a deep 3-pointer out of a timeout. Xavier senior guard Tu Holloway had given the Musketeers (23-12, 10-6 Atlantic 10) a one-point lead with 22 seconds left off a running floater over Irish junior forward Jack Cooley. After a Notre Dame timeout, Grant received the inbounds pass from senior forward Scott Martin, went around a Cooley screen and heaved the ball toward the rim looking for a two-point Irish lead.

“[The play] was just use a ball screen, but they were in the zone,” Grant said. “I see Tu Holloway just sitting behind it, and it was an open look. And usually I knock it down, so I took it.”
Indeed, Grant does usually knock the shot down, finishing the game 3-of-6 from deep on his way to 11 points with seven assists in 40 minutes. Cooley led the Irish (22-12, 13-7 Big East) with 19 points on 8-of-8 shooting along with seven rebounds.
“Really, just Jerian and Eric getting me the ball when they saw mismatches and them just making great passes when I’m open,” Cooley said of his 100 percent shooting. “Their penetration is what got me all the open looks. I was just making dump-off layups.”

A Holloway layup with 3:43 remaining gave Xavier its first lead since the 5:30 mark in the first half. His clutch baskets contributed to a game-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting.

“You were waiting for it to happen,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “He’s so good in end-game situations … So you know it’s coming, you’re just hoping you can weather it.
“I thought overall we did a pretty good job on him and challenged some stuff and took some charges. But he’s a great guard. And he loves those end game moments, and he’s done it time and time again.”

Holloway’s runner to give Xavier its decisive lead hardly seemed to faze the former All-American.

“After a while it becomes just another big game,” Holloway said. “I would say that it helped me out a lot being a senior in college playing over, I believe, 100-something basketball games. I know what I had to do at that time and I was just ready for the opportunity. Luckily the shot went in.”

Holloway and Xavier advanced to the Sweet 16 with a victory over Lehigh on Sunday.

Contact Douglas Farmer at dfarmer1@nd.edu