Men’s Basketball: Irish prepare for Delaware
By Joseph Monardo | Friday, December 6, 2013
Coming off a 98-93 defeat at the hands of Iowa on Tuesday, Notre Dame will retake the court Saturday when it welcomes Delaware in the regional round of the BlackRock Gotham Classic.
After traveling to Iowa City, Iowa for their first road contest of the season, the Irish (5-2) will host three games over the next week in the Purcell Pavilion as part of the second-annual event before facing No. 5 Ohio State in the showcase round Dec. 21 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In the opening game, Notre Dame will face a Delaware team coming off three straight wins. The Blue Hens’ last loss came Nov. 22 against undefeated Villanova in a closely contested road game. Delaware (5-3) fell short of pulling off the upset, losing 84-80.
Delaware finished last season 19-14, compiling a 13-5 conference record to finish third in the Colonial Athletic Association before falling in the semifinals of the conference tournament to eventual CAA champion James Madison.
This season, the Blue Hens have five players averaging more than 12 points per game and five players rebounding at a rate of at least five boards per game. Senior guard Devon Saddler, a first-team All-CAA selection last season and the second-leading scorer in Delaware history, will not play against the Irish due to a month-long suspension imposed for a violation of team rules on Nov. 12. In the Blue Hens’ first two games of the season, Saddler contributed 23 points per game and five rebounds per game.
Even without Saddler, the Blue Hens still have several veterans contributing in their lineup. Senior guard Davon Usher is averaging 19.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and junior guard Jarvis Threatt adds 17.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest. Senior forward Carl Baptiste is chipping in 12.5 points per game, while leading the team with 7.5 boards per game.
The depth Delaware has displayed so far this season will present a challenge for the Irish, who allowed five different Hawkeyes players to score in double digits Tuesday.
“It starts with each individual person being locked in and engaged, and then it comes together as a team,” Irish freshman guard Demetrius Jackson said of defending a team with multiple scoring options. “I definitely feel like we are taking steps toward getting better every day.”
For the past two outings, Irish coach Mike Brey has plugged Jackson into the starting lineup, alongside senior guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton and fifth-year center Garrick Sherman. Although Connaughton appears on the stat sheet as a forward, the lineup is smaller than the one most teams use, a reality that has both positives and negatives.
“Definitely with the smaller lineup it allows us to attack a little more, get into the lane and create,” Jackson said.
“If you can’t defend those bigger guys, if we can’t rebound, it’s going to be tough to stay in there.”
A particular focus for Brey following the game against Iowa (8-1) has been getting his team on the same page defensively, Jackson said.
“Just to be locked in and engaged every single possession, and to get stops … We would tie the game up or get it close, a one-possession game or something like that, and we would just kind of have a breakdown defensively that we shouldn’t have,” Jackson said. “And those are the kind of mistakes we want to fix.”
Notre Dame will have a chance to get back on track when it faces Delaware on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Purcell Pavilion.
Contact Joseph Monardo at firstname.lastname@example.org