After a win that revealed some areas for improvement against Evansville, the #20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish played a more satisfying game against the Monmouth Hawks in their opening game of the Coaches v. Cancer Tournament. The visitors from the Jersey shore came in and started off with exceptional energy and defensive pressure but the Irish righted the ship about 5 minutes in en route to a 84-57 victory.
The starting unit for Notre Dame has played a lot of basketball together and though guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant struggled to shoot the ball for the whole game, the unit brought stability and was given extra ammunition off the bench (I know right? Brey using multiple people off the bench for extended minutes?) from freshman-phenom-in-the-making (using Whiskey-esque cautious optimism) Cameron Biedscheid and transfer big man Garrick Sherman (Score was 7-7 when they first came in and the two guys went on a 10-2 run by themselves making the score 17-9 in under 4 minutes). First year forward Zach Auguste also came in early and gave a jolt of energy with a couple of huge blocks, showing off his length and potential as a rim protector.
Monmouth - led by guards Jesse Steele and Andrew Nicholas - played pressure defense from tip off and used 11 different players in the first 12 minutes to pace themselves. The pressure flustered the Irish early, leading to poor ball placement in entry passes and 10 first half turnovers. But the backcourt settled down and the Irish continued to prove that they are one of the best passing teams in the country by showing off veteran ball movement breaking the pressure and zone defense regularly from the 13 minute mark on.
Sherman, the former Michigan State Spartan, was especially impressive, scoring in every way possible - putbacks, jump shots, hook shots and even pirouetting for a few fancy lay ins. Sherman is a tad better athlete than Jack Cooley is and brings a more diverse offensive game than the starting big man does. The 6th man scored a game high 22 points along with 9 rebounds. To be clear these past few sentences take nothing away from the All-Big East player that is Cooley who chipped in 16 points and 9 rebounds of his own.
The Irish have a few days off before setting out to play St. Joseph's in the CVC Classic Championship this Friday. The game will be played in the brand-spanking-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Tip off is set for 9:30 and you can watch it on TruTV.
A few quick hits:
- Scott Martin continues to be an outstanding team defender and rebounder this year (17 last game and 8 tonight) but is anyone else bothered by the fact that he's persistently listed as a "Guard" every game? Is that a joke that he has going with Brey? I don't get it.
- #SophomoreSensation (Apparently this is what the official ND blog wants to go with) Pat Connaughton continued his solid play tonight putting up 13 points (including 3 three pointers) and 5 assists. He reminds me a little bit of Chandler Parsons - not so much the Florida Gator but the Houston Rocket - and that's a big compliment.
- Austin Burgett saw playing time in this game dunking a basket and grabbing a rebound. Looks like Brey's not red-shirting any freshmen this season. The staff believes he'll resemble Scott Martin starting next season, so you might as well start seasoning the young one.
- ND handily won despite having two of their best players - Grant and Atkins - scoreless for the first 30 minutes of the game. I doubt we'll ever see the backcourt struggle to find scoring opportunities so much the rest of the way so chalk that up as a good thing for the good guys.