Men’s Basketball: Irish win in blowout, Abromaitis out for season
Andrew Gastelum | Monday, November 28, 2011
Notre Dame woke up from its worst nightmare — losing fifth-year senior forward Tim Abromaitis for the season — with a 84-59 blowout victory over Bryant on Sunday afternoon at the Purcell Pavilion.
Abromaitis tore his ACL at practice Friday morning, leaving a huge hole in the Irish frontcourt, but Notre Dame (5-2) responded with five players in double figures, led by sophomore guard Eric Atkins’ 18 points and nine assists.
“With the loss of [Abromaitis], we were going to need guys to step up, and I am ready to be one of those guys,” sophomore guard
Jerian Grant said. “It was definitely a big blow knowing he wasn’t going to be out there, but we all came together as the next man up.”
Coming off a career high 20-point performance in Notre Dame’s 61-57 loss to Georgia in the CBE Classic Nov. 22, Grant posted his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 assists, just three assists shy of a triple-double.
After trading buckets with the Bulldogs (1-5) to start the game, the Irish took the lead for good, sparked by the play of junior guard Joey Brooks.
Brooks recorded five-straight points with 10:43 left in the first half, bringing the Irish run to 20-5 and forcing a timeout from the Bulldog bench.
“[Brooks] got his shots as the fourth or fifth option, and we have got to let that happen,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “His frame of mind is good because we got him defending. He battled [defensively], and when he throws himself in on that end of the floor his offense is usually better.”
Notre Dame took a 19-point lead into halftime following a hustle play from Brooks, who put back a missed layup by Atkins after fighting for a rebound over two Bryant defenders. Brooks was 4-for-5 from the field in the first half after only logging three against Georgia.
Down by 24 with 11:27 left in the second half, the Bulldogs cut the Notre Dame lead to 12 on a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Corey Maynard, who finished with 11 points. But the 15-3 Bryant run was countered by a 12-2 Irish run that put Notre Dame back up by 24 with eight minutes to play.
Sophomore forward Alex Francis led the way for the Bulldogs — who have yet to play a home game — with 22 points on 10-for-22 shooting.
The Irish relied on 27 bench points and 24 assists to atone for the loss of Abromaitis, who will have surgery this Friday.
In his first address to the media since the injury, Abromaitis said the injury came as a shock during routine practice drills.
“There was no soreness [or past knee issues]. I couldn’t have seen it coming,” he said. “We were just doing some two-on-two drills, and I went to drive down the lane. I planted to go up for a layup and [the knee] just gave out on me and I knew it wasn’t supposed to do that.”
But the fifth-year senior didn’t rule out returning for a sixth-year, expressing his hope to continue playing basketball.
“I haven’t thought too deeply about future plans. The sixth-year conversation will definitely come up and if it is a possibility I will look into it,” Abromaitis said. “Hopefully my basketball career is not over. [Playing] is always in the back of my mind.”
Notre Dame will next head to Spokane, Wash. on Wednesday to play Gonzaga.
Contact Andrew Gastelum at [email protected]