Men’s Basketball: Irish claim weekend wins
Matthew DeFranks | Sunday, November 24, 2013
Notre Dame rebounded from its first loss of the season to sweep a pair of games against Santa Clara and Army this weekend.
The Irish (4-1) beat Santa Clara (2-2), 84-69, on Friday night behind 20 points from senior guard Jerian Grant and 16 apiece from graduate student Garrick Sherman and senior guard Eric Atkins.
“Nothing was that easy tonight,” Atkins said Friday. “[Santa Clara] knocked down some contested shots early, but we also made every shot contested. That was the biggest difference for us since last Sunday.”
Freshman guard Demetrius Jackson posted career-highs in both points (13) and rebounds (eight), while sophomore forward Austin Burgett pulled down a season-best 10 rebounds.
“[Burgett] had 10 rebounds and was active and all over the place,” Irish coach Mike Brey said Friday. “He’s giving us really big minutes. He’s another guy like Demetrius that can really grow.”
Santa Clara junior guard Brandon Clark led the Broncos with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting.
The Broncos hung with the Irish for most of the first half, leading 23-22 with 7:03 left in the opening period. But the Irish ripped off a 17-5 run to claim an 11-point lead, capped by Jackson’s 3-pointer with 2:21 left in the half. Notre Dame never trailed again in the game.
Santa Clara cut the Irish lead to four points midway through the second half, but Notre Dame responded with a 12-0 run over the next 3:03, opening up a 16-point cushion.
Notre Dame owned the boards against the Broncos, outrebounding Santa Clara, 42-25, including 16-10 on the offensive glass.
The Irish also capitalized on their trips to the charity stripe, hitting 23 of 27 free throws in the game.
On Sunday afternoon, Notre Dame used balanced scoring and a hot second half to coast to a 93-60 win over Army (1-4).
Sherman and Grant led the balanced Irish attack with 19 points each, as the duo shot a combined 14-for-19 from the floor. Sherman added seven rebounds, while Grant tallied eight assists and six steals.
In the team’s loss to Indiana State last Sunday, Sherman had just four points and five rebounds. In the two wins this weekend, Sherman averaged 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Brey said he liked how Sherman responded to the loss one week ago.
“He didn’t need to go to confession,” Brey said of Sherman. “We need him. He has to be our scoring threat in the low post. To keep nurturing that is really important to me with him. … I’m really pleased with the weekend for him.”
After shooting just 37 percent in the first half, the Irish shot 75 percent in the second period. Notre Dame shot 6-for-8 on 3-pointers in the second half.
“I liked our energy level in the second half much better than the first half,” Brey said. “Disappointed in our juice in the first half; second half, better, more efficient offensively and made better decisions in transition.”
The Irish scored all 10 of their fast-break points in the second half, as the Black Knights turned the ball over nine times in the period. Notre Dame finished the game with 31 points off Army miscues.
“For the most part in the game, we competed in terms of rebounding, but we didn’t take care of the ball, which puts us in a hole in the transition game,” Army coach Zach Spiker said. “That led to a number of easy looks, and that’s why we saw their shooting percentage extremely high in the second half.”
The Irish starting backcourt combined for 10 steals, leading to some easy opportunities in the open court.
“Our team is really good in transition,” Grant said. “I think getting steals leads to that. As long as you can get out in transition, our offense will be good.”
Army did not make a 3-pointer in the first half and shot just 5-for-25 from behind the arc.
“We were going to have to take that away, or else it could have got real interesting,” Brey said.
Sherman helped Notre Dame open up a 15-point second-half lead by scoring 10 consecutive points in a 2:50 span. The Irish iced the game with an 18-0 run across 3:21 to build a 33-point lead.
Burgett made his first career start against Army, replacing graduate student forward Tom Knight in the lineup. He scored two points and grabbed five boards in 20 minutes of action.
“Maybe everybody I start in that spot can’t handle it,” Brey said. “We’ll just keep trying guys until somebody can handle it.”
“We don’t have time to feel sorry for him,” Brey said. “Who wants to start and who can play? We’ll figure it out.”
Notre Dame will try to push its win streak to three games Sunday when it takes on Cornell at Purcell Pavilion.
Contact Matthew DeFranks at email@example.com.