Irish at a Glance
Eric Atkins: Played 40 minutes with just one turnover in the loss to Maryland, but that care with the ball was offset by a paltry two assists on a team that needs buckets created for them…Has hit 15 of 26 from the field including 6 of 11 from beyond the arc in the only three home games in which he's participated.
Jerian Grant: Has hit for double figures in scoring in eight of nine this season, the first nine contests of his collegiate career…Leads the team with 14.4 ppg and has started hot from long range, knocking down 13 of his first 29 offerings…Shooting 56 percent from the field overall…First on the team in assists (40 in nine games) with just 14 turnovers…Notched his first career double-double (12 points and 11 boards) in the team's last home game, a blowout win on Thanksgiving Saturday against Bryant College…A potential All Big East guard in the future, Grant is the key to the team's half court offense this fall.
Scott Martin: The only returning starter from last year's 27-win squad, Martin has struggled to find an offensive rhythm through the first third of the regular season…Shooting percentages (under 35 field goal; under 28 three-point; under 70 free throw) are unacceptable across the board for a senior captain small forward…Averaging five boards a game (2nd on the team)…Hit for a combined eight points on 12 shots in losses to Gonzaga and Maryland…Undersized Irish need his weak side rebounding and defensive presence inside.
Jack Cooley: Sat out Sunday's loss to Maryland due to illness…Cooley has collected just 15 boards over his last four contests following a career-high 17-rebound effort vs. Sam Houston State in mid-November…Has connected on just 13 of his first 30 shots this season – his first as a starter…Status for tonight's game remains in question due to illness (Cooley was in the University's infirmary earlier this week according to report by South Bend Tribune beat writer, Tom Noie.
Joey Brooks: Has embraced the role of defensive stopper, regardless of the opponent's size or skill set, as long as he hits open baseline jumpers and converts free throws following his semi-controlled forays to the hole, the Irish will have a viable rotation member in Brooks…Its good that he's drawn enough fouls to shoot 27 free throws; hitting just 14 is the problem…Has become a much more aggressive, confident player this season that can occasionally hit the open jumper, including an economical 4-9 effort from long range after missing 12 of 13 three-point attempts last year…21.4 minutes per game is by far the most he's played in three seasons at the program.
Pat Connaughton: 6'5" 205-pound athlete brings Big East level athleticism to the rotation…Inconsistent as a scorer to date with six games between 9 and 24 points but also a pair of duds intermixed…Already the team's second best defensive rebounder and will rival all Big East swingmen by 2013 in offensive (weak side) rebounding prowess…Excellent elevation on his jump shot and has hit 6 of his last 14 three-point shots since drilling 6 of 10 vs. Sam Houston State in mid-November.
Alex Dragicevich: Has gained confidence of late, hitting 9 of his last 18 field goal attempts over a three-game span…30 of his 48 shots have come from behind the arc though he's hit just 9 of those offerings…Blocked two shots vs. Maryland on Sunday in just 14 minutes…A man without a position entering his first year of competition on a team full of players searching for roles heading into conference play.
Tom Knight and Mike Broghammer: Knight has added 12 points in 31 minutes of relief action over the last three contests after sitting out the entire Missouri/UGA debacle in Kansas City…Hit 2 of 3 shots in each of the last three outings, grabbing three boards at Gonzaga…With Cooley home in South Bend, Broghammer contributed seven boards in 16 minutes in the loss to Maryland…Was a more agile athlete prior to several knee procedures over the last two seasons…Still brings strength and aggression to the court…Should likely be coached to use 3-4 hard defensive fouls if necessary in the paint.
Meet the Black BearsThe America East competitors are led by seventh-year head coach Ted Woodward.
Maine is led by the 1-2 punch of senior guard Gerald McLemore (20.5 points per game) and Justin Edwards (20.2). A San Diego-area product, McLemore is a high volume shooter (16 attempts per game including 8 per night from beyond the arc). Augmenting his efforts is Edwards, a 6'3" freshman who's topped 20 points in four of his first five career contests. Edwards has hit nearly 60 percent of his first 66 shots as a collegian. He's been named America East rookie of the week three consecutive times.
Sophomore forward Alasdair Fraser leads the Black Bears with 7.6 rebounds per game, chipping in 12.8 points per night in nearly 29 minutes of action. Junior guard Raheem Singleton and freshman forward Kilian Cato average 8.0 and 7.4 points, respectively. Cato has fired 29 three-pointers (hitting 10) in the Bears first five games this season.
PredictionWith a non-existent margin for error, Notre Dame could use a dose of confidence prior to a seven-day finals break leading into a nationally televised matchup with IU next Saturday. Brey's Irish are far different team at home, and their 24-game Purcell Pavilion winning streak should reach 27 prior to the Big East opener vs. Pittsburgh on December 27.
Key to tonight's effort will be perimeter defense by Grant, Atkins, and likely Brooks vs. the 6'3" guard duo of McLemore and Edwards – both natural scorers who could have free reign on forays to the hole if Cooley is less than full strength.
Regardless, the Irish have enough to subdue an inexperienced Black Bears squad, though not without having to withstand a few scoring barrages during the 40-minute contest.