Pegged as a match up between two high scoring teams, Saturday's Gotham Classic Opener between Notre Dame (6-2) and Delaware (5-4) largely lived up that billing in the first half as the two squads ran up and down the court. But the second half - specifically the last 10 minutes turned into a defensive battle with both teams taking shots late in the shot clock.
The Irish had hoped to solve some of their defensive issues after allowing 98 points to Iowa earlier in the week but Delaware's offense wasn't slowed down easily as they came back every time Notre Dame seemed to open up a lead and gave the Irish all they could handle throughout the night.
Irish center Garrick Sherman continued his offensive barrage as he scored 8 of Notre Dame's first 10 points, finishing with 12 in the first half. The Irish jumped to a 12-2 lead but Delaware came roaring back, hitting 5 straight threes and took their first lead - 24-22 - with 8:23 left in the first half.
With about 5 minutes left, Sherman - who was playing matador defense against Delaware big man Carl Baptiste - was pulled out in favor of Tom Knight - who had been in Mike Brey's dog house of late. Notre Dame finished the first half on a 9-2 run finishing with a 42-35 lead that would've been 44-35 had Knight's late goaltended lay up not been overturned.
Demetrius Jackson opened a strong second half start for the Irish as he stole Jarvis Threatt's pass attempt and took it all the way back for a layup. Strong plays by Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant got the Irish lead up to 12 to 54-42 but the Blue Hens crept back in and never let the lead get beyond 12 from the 16:15 mark making a steady comeback and even closed it to 1 with 2:09 left.
But the game was ultimately decided by Jerian Grant who is continuing to have an outstanding season as he hit 2 tough fadeaway jumpers within 35 seconds to give the Irish a 74-69 lead with under a minute to go. Grant finished with 25
- Zach Auguste, at least for this game, may have replaced Tom Knight in the dog house. The sophomore big man from Massachusetts got in the game early but was ineffective and did not play in the second half
- Eric Atkins struggled with foul trouble early and didn't score his first points until the 13:13 mark of the second half. He had 6 assists but was far too deferential on offense.
- The ESPN commentators specifically mentioned the "lack of energy" in the building and that it was playing a part in Notre Dame's struggle to step on their opponents' throat once they get a 10-12 point lead. This was further augmented by another comment: "This is the quietest arena I've ever been in a 3 point game late in the contest." I largely agree with that statement. ND's basketball support has been tepid at best and the students really need to step up in their support. It's getting embarrassing. Again.
- That said, props to the few students who put on Batman outfits in honor of the "Gotham" in Gotham Classic. Well done.
- A bunch of big free throws missed by Notre Dame in the second half almost cost Notre Dame the lead. Everyone needs to focus up over there.
- Pat Connaughton. 21 points 11 rebounds and outstanding defense throughout the night. Continues to be the glue that holds this team together on both sides.
- Delaware's perimeter is a really talented bunch when it comes to scoring. Jarvis Threatt, Davon Usher and Kyle Anderson combined for 61 points and seemed to hit every big 3 they needed throughout the game.