With starting center Jack Cooley as the latest to fall victim to the relentless bug that has ravaged the whole team, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish started their 6th different starting lineup inserting big man Tom Knight in place of Cooley along with Scott Martin, Joey Brooks, Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins against the Maryland Terrapins at the BB&T Classic taking place in the Verizon Center, essentially making it a road game.
The Irish started the game well but defensive miscues beginning in the end of the 1st half coupled with the inability to grab a defensive rebound throughout the second half doomed the Irish despite two comeback efforts by Mike Brey's young squad as they fell 78-71.
Notre Dame jumped out to a early 13-7 lead with back to back field goals from Scott Martin, something that didn't happen against Gonzaga. Problem was that those were the only field goals he made all game and the Irish co-captain continues to struggle and is likely in danger of losing his starting spot to freshman Pat Connaughton (At least he should be).
The Irish backcourt - Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant - played all but 1 minute of the game displaying signs of brilliance at times but glaring inexperience in others which made for a frustrating experience for Mike Brey. Grant put in 20 points to lead all Irish scorers and Atkins chipped in 16 but both guards struggled on defense as their counterparts Terell Stoglin and Sean Mosley put up 31 and 17 respectively.
The Irish fell by double digits for the first time at the 11:59 mark of the 2nd half, 51-40, before making their first comeback where Joey Brooks' two free throws got the road team within 1, 55-54, at the 8:15 mark. But the Irish quickly lost momentum as two offensive put backs gave the Terps the boost it needed to push for one more run, giving itself another double digit lead at the 4:13 mark on a 3 point play by Stoglin. Notre Dame got within 3 with 46 seconds to go but the young Maryland squad was not fazed by the full court press and converted their free throws to seal the game.
Notre Dame plays host to Maine Thursday night. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 pm.
*As you may recall, I was initially excited about this team's prospects in the preseason with the idea that Tim Abromaitis would have a All-American worthy season, Scott Martin would chip in 15 points a night and Eric Atkins would continue to be the efficient guard that he was last season. I genuinely believed that this was a 22-24 win team in the making and would finish in the top 5 in the Big East. Now, this team looks like it will have to scratch and claw to get into the N.I.T.
Strap in folks, it's gonna be rough one.