Men’s Basketball: Irish start strong in exhibition game
Andrew Gastelum | Monday, October 29, 2012
Returning all five starters from last season, No. 23 Notre Dame didn’t miss a beat. Senior forward Jack Cooley and junior guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins combined for 57 points on 21-for-28 shooting as the Irish cruised to a 111-52 victory over Division II Quincy at the Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish put on a passing clinic from the get-go, combining for 30 assists in the game, led by Atkins’ 13.
“I’m just so impressed with how we passed the ball,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I just don’t think there is anyone in the country that can pass the ball better than us […] And to have 30 assists, I don’t care who you are playing. When you’re sharing the ball like that, it’s something that’s a good trait and really positive.”
Atkins captained the offense with 6-for-6 shooting – including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc – for 17 points to go with his 13 assists and five steals without a single turnover. Grant added eight assists and 19 points, 13 coming in the first seven-and-a-half minutes in the second half.
“I don’t really care how we score it,” Brey said. “We are just so good about reading what’s a good shot. If Jerian’s got a good shot three times in a row, I think we are secure enough to let him do that. “
As he did in Big East play last season, Cooley got off to a quick start, scoring 11 points in the first 11 minutes of the game. The preseason all-Big East first-team selection ended the half with 16 points, just five behind Quincy’s total of 21. Cooley led the Irish with 21 points, seven rebounds, five steals and a technical foul.
“I don’t know what got in his head that he could just grab me like that,” Cooley said of the technical foul. “He just kept holding me and I told him ‘You have got to get off of me, I’m not going to stand this.’ He just didn’t listen so I threw him to the ground. You have to protect yourself.”
Senior center Garrick Sherman and freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid made their Irish debuts just over six minutes into the game. With an impressive display of quickness and length, Biedscheid proved to be a tough matchup for the Hawks. The four-star recruit ended the night with 12 points, with 10 coming during his 10 first-half minutes.
With 7:42 left in the first half Biedscheid scored five straight points to put the Irish up 27-6, forcing a Quincy timeout.
“It felt great just to be out there with my teammates,” Biedscheid said. “I have a lot of veteran teammates and when I went on the court I wasn’t nervous or anything because I knew they had my back the whole time.
“Coach Brey always tells me to use my length and my speed to my advantage. There really wasn’t too much of a gameplan, just go out there and crash the defensive boards, play hard and execute on offense.”
The 6-foot-10 Sherman, along with Cooley, anchored the Irish frontcourt, finishing with eight rebounds and 12 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night from the field.
The highlight clip of the night came on an alley-oop from Atkins to Grant with 15:13 left in the second half. Coming out of a timeout, Grant stole the ball on the right wing and dished to Atkins, who gave his roommate a perfect lob pass. Grant finished the dunk and drew a foul to put the Irish up 68-28.
“That’s just our team,” Grant said. “Give it up and give it right back.”
The Irish went on a 19-2 run to start the game despite shooting 27.3 percent in the first half. Notre Dame finished the night shooting 62.3 percent from the field.
“Those starting five have really played a lot of basketball together and they know each other,” Brey said. “They do a really good job of mentoring those [younger] guys […] That’s part of the culture we’ve created here that I’m really proud of.”
Notre Dame will wrap up the exhibition season against Cardinal Stritch on Friday at 9 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.
Contact Andrew Gastelum at email@example.com