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Men’s Basketball: Another step on the road

Eric Prister | Monday, November 7, 2011

Fifth-year forward Tim Abromaitis played only five minutes in the second half Monday night, but that was all the Irish needed to top Stonehill 92-70.

Abromaitis, who will sit out the first four games of the regular season because of eligibility issues, tossed in 17 first-half points, including nine from beyond the arc, and added six rebounds to lead the Irish to a commanding 20-point lead at the break.

“I just think [Abromaitis] is so confident,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “With all the things he’s had in his career, and this summer experience with USA basketball was great. He’s on the Wooden list, he’s on every list, and rightfully so. And I think that has him extremely confident. We’re just going to bottle that for a week and pop the cork in Kansas City, I hope, and let it get going again.

“He becomes a player-coach. I told him when I took him out ‘OK, you’re player-coach with me and you’re back on the blue [second] team — you haven’t been on the blue team since your sophomore year. But he’ll be the blue team captain, and he’ll be great in the role.”

The Skyhawks kept things close at the start, but after they tied the game at 14 with just under 12 minutes to go in the first half, Notre Dame went on a 23-3 run, putting the game out of reach. Junior forward Jack Cooley, who was not in the starting lineup due to an academic infraction, scored the first six points during that stretch, finishing the game with 12 points and nine rebounds.

Sophomore guards Alex Dragicevich and Jerian Grant each finished the game with double-digit points and Grant added nine assists in just his second career game in an Irish uniform. Brey said he saw a new comfort level from his young players.

“I thought we were a little better, especially Grant and Dragicevich, who are talented offensive guys,” Brey said. “With these young players, when they weren’t going good offensively, the other night and in practices sometimes, they wouldn’t concentrate defensively. I thought we had a better focus defensively, we worked harder, and eventually shots came around and they made shots too. But that’s just the young players — most young players are like that, but hopefully they’ve learned something from this past week. Just dig in, you’re going to play. We need you out there, you’ve got to guard.”

Senior guard Scott Martin missed his second straight game with an ankle injury, but Brey said he plans on having Martin back for Notre Dame’s first regular season game Saturday against Mississippi Valley State.

“I’m hoping we’ll have [Martin] back in practice on Thursday and we expect him to play on Saturday and be ready. He’s been shooting a little bit, and he’s certainly very important with [Abromaitis] being out.”

The Irish will take on the Delta Devils from Mississippi Valley State on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in the Purcell Pavilion.