Seven Subdue Hornets

Irish overcome injuries, illness(es) and suspension to reach 4-0 with blowout victory of Delaware State.

South Bend, IndianaNotre Dame rode Jerian Grant's clutch outside shooting and a 12-3 run over a three-minute span midway through the second half to hold off Delaware State and hot-shooting Tahj Tate, 93-69 at the Purcell Pavilion Friday night.

Grant scored 14 of his 17 points in the second stanza, including 11 of Notre Dame's 16 points as the Irish turned a tenuous six-point edge into a commanding 15-point lead to help fend off the Hornets.

"You have to be ready to take open shots," Grant said. "They weren't defending the three point line well and we even had a lot of open looks that we missed, so you just have to step up and take them."

Senior Scott Martin led all scorers with 23 points on 18 shots. He added five boards and three assists despite battling foul trouble throughout the second stanza.

Complimenting Grant in the backcourt was fellow sophomore Alex Dragicevich, who scored a career-high 18 points while hitting three shots from long range after a 4 for 15 start from the field over the first three games. Dragicevich added seven assists; Grant another six, not including several misses by teammates at the rim, the result of pretty feeds from the first-year player.

Grant did not attempt a shot in the first half (3-4 from the free throw line in the opening 19 minutes) and managed his 17 points on just six field goal attempts (3 for 3 from long range; 6-8 from the charity stripe).

"I didn't really get any open looks in the first half," Grant offered. "So in the second half I was just ready to take them when I was open."

Two runs needed

Notre Dame first pulled comfortably ahead midway through the opening half, turning a 15-14 deficit into a 33-18 lead in an 8-minute span.

Delaware State chipped away at that lead thanks to the aforementioned Tate, who finished with a game-high 29 points (7 for 11 from the field including 4-6 from beyond the arc).

After the Hornets cut a 13-point halftime deficit to six, Grant's deft outside touch put down the visitors for the duration. The sophomore from Bowie, MD knocked down three straight shots from long range, adding a pair of free throws and a vicious dunk for 13 of Notre Dame's 20 points in a decisive 20 to 11, five-minute spurt.

"You can see, he can go on a run, he's a streaky guy," said head coach Mike Brey of Grant. "It was good to see Alex making shots, because he's a good shooter and we want him stepping up and taking it. Shooting the ball is going to be a key for us and we have a lot of guys that can do it, I think."

With Tim Abromaitis still out (the final contest of a four-game suspension) and point guard Eric Atkins sidelined for the second straight game with tonsillitis, Notre Dame started the evening with eight scholarship players capable of taking the court. One, junior swingman Joey Brooks was too ill to do anything but warm-up; and the then seven-man crew turned to six when junior center Tom Knight turned his ankle midway through the second half.

"I didn't know it was going to be this much of musical chairs, but it has really paid off," Brey said of the last four games; notably the final pair without Abromaitis and Atkins. "Guys have had to make plays, and we have still found a way to score the ball. It's all good stuff, but I'm done with basketball camp where everyone gets equal minutes. I want to get my nucleus back," he joked.

Easily the most imposing player on the floor, junior Jack Cooley cleared the boards with a career-high 17 rebounds (10 offensive) in a career-high 31 minutes. He added 11 points, seven of which came courtesy the free throw line.

"That's pretty good. After struggling a little in the first couple games, it feels really good to play how I've been practicing," Cooley said. "17 is a lot of rebounds.

"I haven't played that much since high school."

First-time starter Pat Connaughton (Notre Dame's fifth first-time starter this season) struggled relative to his recent pair of sterling efforts; the freshman finished with nine points but missed six of nine shots. He collected seven boards, six defensive – the latter should be the norm this season for the undersized Irish.

Mike Broghammer scored a career-best nine points, adding five rebounds in 12 minutes.

"He was moving the best he's moved in awhile," Brey said of Broghammer, a junior who's battled knee injuries/pain throughout his career.

"For us to get through this 4-0 without (Tim) Abromaitis is great," Brey said. "I was worried about us beating Detroit without him. I'm glad we're in this position, but we have a heck of a challenge Monday. They're (Missouri) really good and really fast. We have to change tempo with them; we can't run around with them all night."

Missouri enters the contest 1-0, ranked #24 in the Associated Press poll

Notes

Eric Atkins (27), Pat Connaughton (24), Alex Dragicevich (18), Jerian Grant (17), Joey Brooks (13) and Mike Broghammer (9) have already registered career-highs through four games. Tom Knight tied his in a Game Three win over Sam Houston State (7 points).

Only Tim Abromaitis (who's yet to play), fellow captain Scott Martin, and Jack Cooley have not bested their career-high scoring totals through the season's opening week. Said Brey of the string of breakout performances: "Everybody is happy, but when everyone is healthy there are going to be guys upset about minutes."

Notre Dame will travel to Kansas City tonight, with or without the still-ill Atkins, whom Brey mentioned could meet the team with a commercial flight Sunday for Monday's contest. "I wonder what we can get out of him, realistically," Brey said of Atkins. "I'm concerned."

Brooks is expected to fly with the team after watching last night's festivities in warm-up gear. Knight slightly tweaked his ankle late last night but is expected to be available.


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