Grant, Irish take down Demon Deacons
Manuel De Jesus | Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Senior guard Jerian Grant led No. 10 Notre Dame to an 88-75 victory over Wake Forest with his 10th game of at least 20 points this season Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.
After a six-day break, the Irish (23-4, 11-3 ACC) returned to their home court to take on the Demon Deacons (12-15, 4-10 ACC), who had previously defeated Notre Dame in all three of their meetings. Most recently, the Irish fell 81-69 in the opening round of last season’s ACC tournament to Wake Forest.
Things were drastically different this time around. The first half was a back-and-forth battle between the Irish and the Demon Deacons with 15 lead changes, but after Grant converted a layup to end the half, Notre Dame never gave Wake Forest a chance to come back.
“We had some uncharacteristic turnovers [in the first half],” Grant said. “We were upset at ourselves, but we felt like we were going to get it going.”
Notre Dame went on to lead for the rest of the game, pushing the lead up to 19 points. Sophomore forward Austin Torres, who contributed five points and six rebounds, lifted the energy level of the crowd and the team when he hit an emphatic dunk in the second half during an 11-2 run.
“Whenever he comes in, he plays with a lot of energy,” Grant said. “I know he’s always running the floor with his hands ready, so when he’s running the floor I know I can give it to him.”
Because junior forward Zach Auguste was in foul trouble early on in the game, coach Mike Brey was forced to play freshman forward Bonzie Colson and Torres throughout the game to match up against Wake Forest junior forward Devin Thomas, who scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“We threw multiple bodies at him,” Grant said. “He’s a big body. He gets in there and gets his position, so we had to throw multiple bodies at him.”
The difference in the game came from the free-throw line, where the Demon Deacons shot 9-for-9 in the first half but hit just 2-for-6 in the second half. Notre Dame, on the other hand, converted 12 of its 13 free throws and made all 15 of its chances in the second half.
“We have been shooting a lot more free throws in practice,” sophomore forward V.J. Beachem, who added 10 points for the Irish, said. “I think that’s really helping our percentage. Our 3-point shots were falling in the first half. I think that’s why guys starting attacking the rim more.”
While the team received contributions from several players, most of the praise went to Grant’s performance, which earned him the Player of the Game on the night.
“Every night you know he’s going to score around 20 with 10 assists every game,” sophomore guard Steve Vasturia said. “He’s a heck of a guard and really fun to play with.”
Grant is coming off a 22-point performance against Clemson last Tuesday. Beachem said Grant’s presence makes the whole team better.
“It’s a great feeling [to be playing with Grant],” Beachem said. “He makes the game a lot easier for us.”
Looking towards the road game against Boston College, Beachem said the team knows it’s going to have to be ready to play, since the contest against the Eagles on Feb. 4 was a close one in which the Irish lost a 25-point lead to end up winning by just eight points.
Notre Dame will travel to the Silvio Conte Forum this weekend to play Boston College on Saturday for the second time this season.