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Men’s Basketball: Irish take second victory at Gotham Classic

Joseph Monardo | Monday, December 9, 2013

Notre Dame notched another victory in its second game of the BlackRock Gotham Classic, and it was not any more comfortable than the first. The 70-59 victory over Bryant came after the Irish (7-2) struggled to pull away throughout the game and held a lead as tenuous as four points with two and a half minutes to play.

“Another hard game from a good team that can win their league, and I think it’s a great experience for us,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We could never really get flowing offensively, so we really had to fend to get out of there tonight. Keeping them in the 50s, keeping their shooting percentage down is why we won the game, because we never really got into an offensive flow.”

Much like in Saturday’s 80-75 win over Delaware, senior guard Jerian Grant, senior center Garrick Sherman and junior forward Pat Connaughton led the way for the home team. After dropping 25 Saturday, Grant led all scorers with 23 points and had nine assists on the night. Sherman put up 14 points and 13 rebounds for his first career double-double, while Connaughton secured his second-straight double-double with 17 points and 11 boards.

Grant also kept Bulldogs junior guard Dyami Starks in check, limiting the nation’s eighth-leading scorer to 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting.

“I think Jerian Grant, the game that he had, guarding Starks and then doing what he did offensively is fabulous,” Brey said. “That takes a lot of energy and a lot of concentration and he never really let that guy get going.”

The Irish outrebounded Bryant (6-4) 44-30 in the game. While Sherman and Connaughton brought down 24 of those rebounds, Irish senior guard Eric Atkins contributed six boards while freshman guard Demetrius Jackson recorded four of his own.

“That’s huge for us,” Connaughton said. “We didn’t win the rebounding margin against Iowa [on Dec. 3] and that’s one of the reasons we lost. So I think the rebounding is definitely going to be key for us going forward, especially with the smaller lineup.”

Notre Dame got off to a quick start in the game, scoring the first seven points of the contest and taking a 9-4 lead into the under-16 minute timeout. Bryant battled back in a hurry, though, and built up a 17-12 lead before the next media timeout. The teams traded leads for the bulk of the half’s remainder, as neither side built up a cushion of more than five points until Notre Dame pulled ahead by seven with four minutes remaining. The Irish extended their lead from there, finishing the period on an 18-2 run and leading 39-27 at halftime.

Grant led the way for the home team in the opening half, scoring 15 points and dishing out six assists. Connaughton added 11 points in the half on 4-for-5 shooting and came down with five rebounds.

The Bulldogs cut into the Irish advantage in the opening minutes of the second and kept things close until the final minutes. Notre Dame relied on its low post game throughout the second half, as Sherman and senior forward Tom Knight combined for 12 straight Irish points during one stretch. Knight had four second-half points and two second-half rebounds to finish with six in each category while Sherman had a second-half line of 10 points and seven boards. Only two games removed from a no-show against Iowa, Knight played 20 minutes in the game, 12 of which came in the first half.

“Sherm becoming that low-post scorer for us, and even Tom Knight gave us some stuff,” Brey said. “But there was no question that low post touches were going to be good. [Sherman] had some big baskets for us. We are going to have to rely on a low post scorer … It’s just kind of who we are right now.”

The hard-fought win was Notre Dame’s second in as many outings, and the second game in a stretch that brings three games in five days. North Dakota State comes to the Purcell Pavilion for the final contest in the campus round of the Gotham Classic.

“I love the fact that we had game pressure on us and had to make some big plays on Saturday and Monday to kind of get out of your gym alive,” Brey said. “That’s more like league play. That’s why this week could be good. You know, unless we lose one. Then it’s not good.”


Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu