After losing their best player, Tim Abromaitis, to a season (and likely basketball career, because the dude has his BBA and MBA already and probably can have a $100k job offer next week) ending ACL tear last week, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish traveled to faraway Spokane, WA to take on the #18 Gonzaga Bulldogs. The students, who have been camping out since Sunday, packed "The Kennel" and were pumped to see their team pay back the visiting team after the Bulldogs lost at Purcell Pavilion last year with a 20 point win, 73-53.
The Irish lost the game in the first 10 minutes after falling behind 21-6 at the 9:42 mark of the first half largely due to their 11 turnovers and just 18% shooting in the same time span.
But the visiting team struggled on the defensive end early as well allowing deep position and easy shots against big men Robert Sacre and Elias Harris in the inside and struggling against the perimeter quickness and shooting of Kevin Pangos and David Stockton (yea, son of that Stockton who also went to Gonzaga).
Co-Captain Scott Martin, who is now desperately needed on a nightly basis, was M.I.A on the offensive end posting just 1 point on 0-6 shooting from the field and just 1-3 from the charity stripe. Though he was active on the defensive end, the Irish are not going to be successful in games unless they can get consistent production from Martin on a nightly basis. 8 games is a small sample size, but that from what we've seen thus far, that may be too much to ask.
Eric Atkins, who has become a de-facto captain with the loss of Abromaitis also struggled all night, caught aimlessly dribbling at times and not connecting on his jump shots. Atkins was well known for being efficient last season - he had the best assist to turnover ratio in the league - and has the skillset to be a very good Big East guard, so his production will have to be consistent as well.
Jerian Grant was Notre Dame's best player Wednesday night scoring 16 points on just 9 FG attempts and displaying eye-catching quickness in his dribble penetration and getting to the line 7 times. Junior Joey Brooks came on strong in the second half defending and rebounding well, finding teammates in the right spots and hitting a few jump shots during Notre Dame's mini-comeback in the early part of the second half where they pulled within 9 points, 43-34. Freshman Pat Connaughton also contributed and his two 3 pointers in the first half kept the game from turning even worse for the Irish.
Mark Few's Gonzaga squad looked impressive inside and outside out rebounding the Irish 38-28 and beat them in the assist category 16-6 as well. Both coaches have expressed interest in continuing the home-and-home series in the near future and both programs can only benefit from playing each other as long as Few and Brey are the ones at the helm.
Notre Dame has another tough road game (though it is mistakenly characterized as a "neutral site game") next against Maryland in the nation's capital for the BB&T classic. The game will be this Sunday and is scheduled for a 4:45 tip off.