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Men’s Basketball: Zoning out

Chris Allen | Monday, February 4, 2013

In a game that received pregame attention for a matchup between brothers, No. 25 Notre Dame was doomed by a poor shooting night at the Carrier Dome in a 63-47 loss to No. 9 Syracuse on Monday night.

The Orange (19-3, 7-2 Big East) ended a two-game losing streak in front of a rowdy home crowd as the Irish (18-5, 6-4) fell victim to a 6-for-20 performance from beyond the 3-point arc against the signature Syracuse 2-3 zone defense.

“Their zone distorted us. We weren’t able to get into the gaps,” Irish coach Mike Brey said in a postgame interview with UND.com. “But you know, we had some looks that you’ve got to make if you’re going to beat them. When we’ve beaten them, you’ve got to shoot better than 6-for-20 from the 3-point line. Even from the foul line, we had some key free throws we didn’t make.”

Syracuse freshman forward Jerami Grant prevailed in the first official matchup with his brother, Notre Dame junior guard Jerian Grant, who led the Irish with 15 points on the night. Their father, former NBA forward Harvey Grant, was in attendance at the Carrier Dome to watch his sons square off. Jerami Grant finished with 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

Brey said he did not think the family ties impacted Jerian Grant’s play – the junior finished with a team-high four turnovers.

“I think, if anything, [Jerian] wanted it so bad because he wanted to beat his brother,” Brey said. “Obviously, Jerami Grant played fabulous against us. We really couldn’t defend him, we didn’t have many answers for him. He was the difference. But Jerian, in his way, tried to get us going. I think they’re very competitive, and I’m sure they’ll get on each other here in the next week.”

Coming off a sluggish overtime victory over a struggling DePaul team on the road, Notre Dame failed to get shooting momentum going ahead of its primetime showdown with No. 11 Louisville on Saturday. Freshman forward Cam Biedscheid shot 1-for-8 from 3-point territory and sophomore guard/forward Pat Connaughton missed on all three of his attempts from behind the arc, as well.

Brey said the height of Syracuse guards Michael Carter-Williams (6-foot-6) and Brandon Triche (6-foot-4) impacted the shooting against the zone.

“I think you have to give Syracuse credit because they’re really long and athletic in that zone, and they hurry you a little bit,” Brey said. “When you have a long guy flying at you, you tend to be a little sheepish on the release. I just think their length bothered us. Their guards up top are bigger than last year, so even our guards didn’t get good looks.”

Brey’s squad will now take the remainder of the week to rest and practice for a marquee matchup with Louisville on Saturday night at Purcell Pavilion. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be on campus in the lead-up to the matchup.

“We need to get some rest right now,” Brey said. “Then we’ve got a heck of a challenge in an exciting atmosphere Saturday night.”

Contact Chris Allen at [email protected]