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Men’s Basketball: Notre Dame hosts Miami

By Sam Gans | Friday, November 8, 2013

After a nearly eight-month hiatus following its NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa State, No. 21 Notre Dame returns to the hardwood tonight when it welcomes Miami (Ohio) to Purcell Pavilion for its season opener.

The Irish will do so led by senior guard Eric Atkins and junior forward Pat Connaughton, who were announced as captains Wednesday. As a result, Atkins became the first three-time captain in program history.

Miami is coming off a rough season in which it went 9-22 overall and 3-13 in the MAC. But Irish coach Mike Brey said in his press conference Wednesday he has been careful not to overlook the RedHawks

Notre Dame has won 14 straight season openers. Its last defeat was a 76-65 home loss to the RedHawks on Nov. 13, 1998, two years before Brey arrived in South Bend. The RedHawks also won in South Bend in Brey’s first season before the Irish took a one-point victory in Oxford the following year.

“I just look at the history of the thing,” Brey said. “My first year here, [the RedHawks] come in here and beat us. … They were good. And then one of our great wins my second year was winning at Miami of Ohio. … That was a great win for us. But we’re 4-4 [in our history], and they’ve won three of the last four and they’ve won in this building, so I’m anxious.”

Miami is led by second-year coach John Cooper, who played for Eddie Fogler at Wichita State in the 1980s. Fogler spent his college days at North Carolina under Dean Smith, and Brey said Cooper’s teams have a trapping style indirectly influenced by Smith, which could cause difficulty since the Irish have rarely played against it.

“[The RedHawks are] kind of rebuilding,” Brey said. “They’re going to scramble you. … Trapping, running, jumping. This is a true test of us taking care of the ball, because they’re going to really try and make it chaotic and not let us play at our pace. They’re going to speed us up and trap us, so our decision making with the basketball is really going to be challenged, and then they’ve got some speed that you’ve got to stay in front of.”

The trick to finding success against Miami’s defense could lie in athletic freshman guard Demetrius Jackson. Friday’s game will mark the collegiate debut for the blue-chip product from Mishawaka.

“The one thing about Demetrius with his strength is he’s great in traps,” Brey said. “He’s more equipped to take on a trap maybe than Eric and [senior guard] Jerian [Grant] over time because he’s just so darn strong. He got caught in one yesterday [at practice] and just kind of stepped through it like a man and made the play. But it will be a new level for him again. It’s not exhibition teams. And there’s some physical, older guards coming after him, so [it will be] a challenge.”

Miami lost last season’s leading scorer, Allen Roberts, but returns its second-leading scorer and its top rebounder, redshirt senior forward Will Felder, and senior guard Quinten Rollins, who benefited from the trapping style to average 1.87 steals per game last year.

As the Irish open the season, the status of sophomore forward Cam Biedscheid remains unclear. Biedscheid, who played in 34 games as a freshman, sat out Notre Dame’s exhibition wins over Indianapolis and Tusculum. Brey said he would meet with Biedscheid to discuss the possibility of the sophomore redshirting this season. The decision should be known today.

The Irish tip off their season tonight against Miami at 7 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion.

Contact Sam Gans at [email protected]