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Men’s Basketball: ND closes exhibition run

Sam Gans | Sunday, November 3, 2013


Notre Dame utilized hot shooting from senior guard Eric Atkins and graduate student forward Tom Knight to roll to a 93-44 victory over Tusculum in its second and final exhibition game Friday night at Purcell Pavilion.

Knight went 7-for-9 from the floor, including 6 of 6 in the first half, and Atkins shot 9 of 11 on the evening as the No. 25 Irish rolled in their last tune-up before they open the season Friday against Miami (Ohio).

Knight, who finished with 14 points, sat out Notre Dame’s exhibition opener against Indianapolis on Oct. 28 with a back injury, although he said it was mostly a precautionary measure.

“Our last game I was disappointed, wanted to be out there with the guys,” Knight said. “It started off well with my first couple baskets, so it was fun and [I] definitely love the pieces on this team. I think we work very well together.”

Atkins mostly deferred to Knight and others early in the contest, until the senior went on a surge just before halftime. Atkins scored 10 points in the final two minutes of the first half to send the Irish into the break with a 47-18 advantage. He finished with a team-high 21 points.

“There’s a time in every single game you have to be aggressive. … I just had to get into a rhythm,” Atkins said.

The most exciting play of the tune-up against the Division-II Pioneers, who went 6-21 a season ago, came early in the second half when Atkins, falling down after a steal in the backcourt, flipped the ball backward over his head down court to Knight for a dunk. Atkins said he saw Knight out of the corner of his eye as he fell.

“I got the steal right away and I kind of tripped over the guy’s foot … and I just knew I could throw it behind me,” Atkins said.

In addition to Knight and Atkins, two other Irish starters also had strong performances. Senior center Garrick Sherman had the game’s lone double-double as he finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds and junior forward Pat Connaughton went 3-for-6 from 3-point range and scored 14 points. Starting senior guard Jerian Grant struggled from the floor, meanwhile, shooting just 1-of-8.

Freshman guard Demetrius Jackson joined Atkins, Knight, Connaughton and Sherman in double figures, as he scored 10 points.

With the contest against the overmatched Pioneers complete, the Irish now look ahead to their first game of the regular season against the RedHawks at the end of the week.

Contact Sam Gans at [email protected]