Irish Basketball End Non-Conference Schedule With OT Win Over Canisius

Captain Eric Atkins bounced back and stepped up to lead the Irish tonight - Andy Lyons

Notre Dame wins its final game of the 2013 Calendar Year at home 87 - 81

The 2013 Calendar Year has not been kind to Notre Dame Sports, and because we here at OFD haven't had an official Festivus airing of grievances, I'll do a short reminder of the hit parade leading up to this final Notre Dame athletic competition of 2013.

Notre Dame opened up the year by getting crushed in the National Championship Game against Alabama. A day later rumors circled that head coach Brian Kelly would be taking the Philadelphia Eagles job. Before that could calm down Lennay Kekua resurrected and the Manti Te'o catfishing scandal broke on Deadspin. Notre Dame basketball sputtered in the Tournament (though with how Iowa State looks like right now, that loss doesn't look so bad anymore) and before the summer could start ND lost its starting QB and one of its most prized recruits to some BS excuse that no one but the NCAA bought. The football season was riddled with unfortunate turnovers and even more unfortunate injuries but somehow that team hung on and ended the year 9-4 while the University's Men's soccer team earned the program's first national championship.

December 2013 has been particularly brutal for Notre Dame basketball. After a string of disappointing losses to mid majors like Indiana State and North Dakota State, Mike Brey and his squad suffered a crushing collapse in the final minute against #3 Ohio State and lost the team's two talented wing players - including the team's best player - the very next day.

So you can imagine the team badly needed this one - even if the opponent was a tiny college in western New York that no one has heard of - and they got it through a strong second half effort from Eric Atkins.

Notre Dame started off the game 0-5 from the floor as Canisius jumped out to a 5-0 lead and held a small lead through the first 30+ minutes of the game. Senior guard - and son of the head coach - Billy Baron played otherworldly basketball for most of the second half to keep the Golden Griffins ahead and in it but his Irish counterpart Atkins had a career high 30 points - including the game clinching 3 in overtime - to lead the Notre Dame comeback victory.

The Irish grabbed 44 rebounds (to Canisius' 31) and shot well from everywhere on the floor (47% from the field over all, 42% from 3 and 81% from 3) to overcome their uncharacteristic 16 turnovers. If they are going to be competitive in the ACC, they'll have to be more efficient with the ball and equally efficient with their shots during conference play.

The Irish have 6 days off before they host Jabari Parker and #9 Duke in their ACC opener.

A few hits:

  • Garrick Sherman had 17 points and 10 rebounds and a crucial block in overtime to seal the win. He still turns the ball over in ridiculous ways and can't defend in most situations but he continues to plug away for this team down low. It'll be curious to see if he can do this on a nightly basis in the ACC
  • Tom Knight (and Garrick Sherman) were named as captains to go along with Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton. Knight started the game but was largely ineffective and his role going forward will be one to keep an eye on
  • Zach Auguste continues to do good things when given the chance. The sophomore big man had 12 points and 8 rebounds - he will have to play at a similar level in conference play
  • The two freshman swingmen - V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia - played heavy minutes in the second half and looked good. They each made one crucial three that keyed the comeback and did not make many mistakes. It was especially good to see these two step up because Demetrius Jackson was largely ineffective tonight as well
  • It looks like the Irish will move along with this 9 man rotation on a full time basis - a pretty welcoming sign if you ask me
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