Jerian Grant tied his career high with 26 points as he led Notre Dame to a straightforward 90-42 victory over the Chicago State Cougars. The Irish improved to 6-1 on the season with the win, their final "warm-up" before their first big home challenge against Michigan State on Wednesday.
Notre Dame was easily the superior team for the large majority of this one, grabbing a lead in the second minute of the game and controlling it from then on. The Cougars threw plenty of defensive looks at the Irish, varying a 2-3 zone with a full-court press to keep the Irish on their toes. Despite this, the Irish were able to consistently find quality looks with outstanding ball movement. Every member of the Irish starting 5 was able to accrue at least two assists, as the Irish swung the ball around the perimeter with purpose to find wide-open shooters.
The Irish also stepped up their game defensively, as they held Chicago State to a season-low 42 points. The Cougars' leading scorer Clarke Rosenberg came into this one averaging over 17 PPG, but the Irish held him to a mere 3 points on 1-6 shooting. In fact, not a single Chicago State player reached double figures on the day. The Cougars were mostly content to shoot from distance, launching up 23 three-point attempts, but only connecting on 5. The Irish played with a much greater sense of urgency than they did against Grambling, contesting shots and preventing the Cougars from getting into any kind of offensive flow all game long.
The Irish also played a quite disciplined defensive game, sending the Cougars to the line a mere 4 times on the day, compared to the 22 foul shots the Irish took. Zach Auguste, despite the quiet night offensively, played a very sound defensive game. He prevented any easy looks at the rim, and grabbed a team-leading 8 boards.
While every member of the Irish had a solid game, the story of this game was Jerian Grant. Although Grant has done a fantastic job as the focal point of the Irish offense all season, he has struggled with his three-point shot for the majority of the year. That was not the case in this one, as Grant made a career-high 6 deep balls in only 8 attempts. Grant was feeling it all day, but he really turned it on in the second half, showing immense confidence by stepping into multiple 3-pointers. When Grant is hitting that shot, he becomes all but unguardable.
The Irish as a whole were torrid from deep, making a season-high 14 three-point field goals and shooting 56%. While Grant was a huge part of this, V.J. Beachem also continued his impressive run of shooting at Purcell Pavilion, connecting on 3 of 4 long-range efforts. After looking hesitant and passive for much of his freshman season, Beachem has emerged as a true scoring threat off the bench, something the Irish could really use this year.
A few more thoughts from today's victory:
- Under Armour unveiled perhaps their most adventurous uniforms yet, going with an all-gold look. While I've heard a lot of negative reaction to the alternate look, I am a big fan of this one. I love the way the green accentuates the gold, and I think the Irish logo with the shamrock dotting the "I" is particularly sharp. The arrows on the side are a bit awkward, but I would love to see the Irish sport these a few more times this year.
- The captain, Pat Connaughton, continued to effortlessly fill up the stat sheet today. Connaughton never seems to force anything, but he always finds a way to contribute on both ends. In this one, he put up 17 points, finishing around the rim and hitting threes. He also added 4 assists and 5 rebounds.
- I loved that Mike Brey was able to find some first half minutes for Bonzie Colson and Austin Torres. This is the type of game where Brey can really see what he has in his fringe bench guys so that he can decide whether they will be used later in the season. Colson has looked very effective in the limited time he has seen, and even Torres showed his ability to be a high-energy contributor today.
- Notre Dame has shot over 50% in every single game this season. Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy said after the game, "There's no team in the country that shoots the ball better than that team." With the Irish ranking best in all of Division I in FG%, he has a point. With he versatility of the Irish's offensive weapons, we can have many more fun offensive games this year. The ACC should take notice.