The Irish got off to a fast start in last night's season opening victory over Miami (OH), led by preseason all-ACC guard Jerian Grant. Grant hit his first three 3s in the opening minutes, propelling Notre Dame to a quick double-digit lead.
But with about 7 minutes remaining in the first half, the Redhawks went on a 12-3 run to get back into the game, and the Irish could not really shake them the rest of the game. Miami cut Notre Dame's lead to as close as six but couldn't quite get over the hump from that point on, as the Irish were able to keep the Redhawks at an arm's length for the second half.
Notre Dame's inability to truly put Miami away was frustrating, as they are expected to finish near the bottom of the MAC standings this season. Still, they have a new, up-and-coming head coach in John Cooper who turned around a terrible Tennessee State program along with an interesting mix of young talent, transfers, and international players. They might get turned around sooner than many expect, but there is no way to spin the Irish's struggles, especially on the boards, as they again got out-rebounded by an inferior opponent.
Grant finished with a career-high 26 points on just 14 shots, an impressive season opener for the senior who will have a spotlight on him for the entire season. The Irish as a team had 21 assists to just 7 turnovers, which needs to be their bread-and-butter this season. Eric Atkins led the way here with 6 assists and no turnovers.
Notre Dame tried desperately to get Garrick Sherman involved offensively, but the senior forward struggled mightily, going just 1-7 from the floor, turning the ball over twice, being out-rebounded by Miami's shorter forwards, and fouling out in just 20 minutes of play. Frankly, performances like that are unacceptable in ACC play, and he needs to get back on track in a hurry.
Demetrius Jackson was quiet in his debut, going just 1-2 from the field in 13 minutes in addition to tallying 2 rebounds and an assist. Fellow true freshmen V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia both played as well, so it looks as though neither will redshirt this season. I'm not surprised by either decision, particularly with Cameron Biedschied officially deciding to redshirt last night.
Both Biedscheid and Mike Brey opened up about that decision last night, and both said all the right things. Brey cited current players Jerian Grant and Tom Knight as guys that Biedscheid could really confide in to make this decision. Biedschied, for his part, reinforced that the decision was made to benefit him "strength-wise, skill-wise, and academic-wise", which is probably all we need to know about that.
Biedscheid specifically addressed a question regarding whether he considered a transfer, to which he said, "It's definitely not the case at all. Right now, I'm really just sticking to the five-year program." It's an odd situation to be sure, but he is apparently sincere about staying at Notre Dame, and he would not be allowed to play elsewhere until January 2015 at the earliest, so an ulterior motive to transfer eventually does not make sense either. He'd be gone already if that was the plan.
With Biedscheid's decision and explanation in the rearview mirror, Notre Dame will move forward likely with just the 9 players we saw last night. The season continues for the Irish on Sunday afternoon, as they take on the Stetson Hatters at 1 p.m. in the Purcell Pavilion. You can watch the game on ESPN3 or WatchND.