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#12 Irish Go Small to Beat Canes 75-70

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On an afternoon where the #12 Irish started uncharacteristically cold from beyond the arc, the Irish went small in the second half to come back to beat Miami 75-70.

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While much of the pregame focus was on Zach Auguste's return to the Irish, and how he an Bonzie Colson might feature inside for the Irish, the story of this game was ND going small to come back against Miami in the second half. Trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half after an ice-cold start to the game from beyond the arc, Coach Mike Brey put a lineup of Demetrius Jackson, Jerian Grant, Steve Vasturia, Pat Connaughton, and VJ Beachem on the floor for the Irish. The small-ball lineup responded by finally getting some threes to fall, and forcing enough stops on defense to chip away at the lead. With just under 10:00 left in the game, Grant (while sitting on the floor with the ball) was able to find Vasturia in the lane to give the Irish their first lead of the afternoon at 52-50. Brey stuck with the same lineup the rest of the way, and despite Jim Larranaga throwing a few different lineups at the Irish guards, the Canes couldn't stop the guard heavy Irish offense. Unlike recent games, ND was able to keep getting buckets down the stretch, and a long possession extended by a Connaughton offensive board that ended with a Vasturia layup helped shut the door on the Canes. ND finished with 7 points on their last four possessions to finish the game. The win moves the Irish to 17-2 overall and 5-1 in ACC play.

Scoring Grant Was Back in a Big Way

After a couple of poor shooting nights for the Irish guard, Jerian Grant had an awesome night scoring the basketball. He started the game 3/3 from the field which included a three point make during a stretch of the game where little else was working for the Irish offensively. The senior finished with a game high and very efficient 23 points (8/10 FG, 2/3 3pt), 8 assists, a steal, and a block down the stretch that helped seal the win. He also showed off the skills NBA scouts have to love with a big step-back 3 in the second half. Lastly, Grant was able to drive through the entire Miami defense on the last ND possession before Miami started fouling. Grant''s bucket came at the end of the shot clock on a possession that started with just over a minute left, and extended the Irish lead to six and effectively ending the game. During his recent cold stretch, Grant still put up big assist numbers for the Irish, but without his scoring today, there's no chance the Irish come back in the second half.

Auguste Returns to the Team

At 11:00 this morning, it was announced the Auguste cleared up whatever academic issue was keeping him off the court, and that he would be suiting up for the Irish later in the day. Although he didn't start, Auguste didn't wait long to make an impact on the game. He entered after the under 16:00 TO in the first half, and scored on a pass from Grant after a pick-and-roll on his first offensive possession. Although he didn't feature much in the second half with the Irish going small, it's good to see whatever issue Auguste was dealing with is behind him, and that he'll be with the team the rest of the season. Fears of a season-long suspension or Frozen/Marooned Five situation can be put to rest.

Small Ball Lineup

Coach Brey deserves a ton of credit for going to the small lineup and sticking with it against the Canes. ND was able to switch every screen without worrying about different size-mismatches wen playing small which helped force some tough shots from Miami. A huge part of the lineup's success without the ball was Pat Connaughton's ability to play much bigger than his size. The senior captain had 10 defensive rebounds, and every successful defensive possession seemed to end with Pat securing the board against a taller opponent. While the offense scoring was obviously important, a team can't come back without getting stops on defense. Pat's rebounding ended a number of Miami possessions after just one shot allowing the Irish to chip away at the lead. Vasturia again showed he's much more than just a long range shooter chipping in 11 points on 5/8 shooting despite making just one of his four 3pt attempts. Jackson had a rough day shooting, but his lone three started a run of fours straight three pointers for the Irish that ignited the second half comeback. Lastly, Beacham had another good day shooting from beyond the arc going 3/7 from distance.

Notes

  • The Irish started very cold from long range and were 2/16 at one point in the game. ND finished 9/28 (32.1%) from downtown which is well below its season average.
  • The Irish guards, Demetrius Jackson in particular, did a excellent job on Miami's Angel Rodriguez. The Hurricanes PG had 24 in their win over Duke and 25 in a 2OT loss to Virginia. Against Notre Dame, Rodriguez had just four points and was 1/10 from the field.
  • Despite the small lineup, ND actually outrebounded the Canes 33-32. Miami played a few different lineups against the Irish in the second half, but were unable to take advantage. Center Tonye Jekiri had just two points in the last 15 minutes of the game. While he didn't play the entire second half against, he did little to punish ND for playing the five guards.
  • Bonzie Colson made his first start for Notre Dame this afternoon. He finished with four points on 1/3 shooting along with three rebounds, two blocks, and a steal in 12 minutes of action. Auguste had a similar line in relief with four points, four boards, and a steal. Torres also entered the game, but didn't record a stat in his two minutes on the floor (Trillion!).
  • The less said about the offense in the first half, the better. That said, the team's defense, and some timely buckets from Grant kept the game within one point at the break when it could have been much worse.
  • After turning the ball over five times before the under 12:00 timeout, ND finished with just eight turnovers for the entire game. The Irish didn't have a single turnover the last 8:00 of the game.
  • Tom Hawkins was inducted into the ND Basketball Ring of Honor at halftime. Hawkins was the school's first African-American player, and still holds the career rebounding record. He was the third pick in the 1959 NBA draft and played 10 years in the league.

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