Irish too big for Bryant

Notre Dame improved to 7-3 with a 70-59 victory over the scrappy but undersized Bryant Bulldogs Monday night at the Purcell Pavilion.

South Bend, Ind. -- A Corey Maynard three-point shot drew visiting Bryant within four, 56-52, at the game's 2:41 mark but Irish senior guard Jerian Grant answered with a wing triple of his own to give Notre Dame the late cushion it needed in a 70-59 victory.

Grant followed his clutch long-range offering with a flying blocked shot near the rim and a pair of free throws over the next two game possessions as the Irish put down the game Bulldogs with 10 consecutive made free throws in the final minute.

After controlling the opening half with 15 points and 6 assists, Grant's trey and foul shots were his first points of the second stanza. He added two more free throws for the final scores in the 11-point margin.

"That's what he does, hit big shots," said Garrick Sherman of Grant. "When we need one, we turn to Jerian."

Grant finished with a game-high 23 points and nine assists and hounded one of the nation's top scorers, Dyami Starks, throughout the contest. Starks entered the evening scoring at a 23.4 points per game clip but was held to just 12 by Grant on 4 of 12 shooting.

"I thought Jerian Grant, the game that he had guarding Starks and doing what he did offensively was fabulous," said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. "If (Starks) goes off, that thing gets interesting."

Each of Starks four field goals came from beyond the arc.

Head and Shoulders

With no Bryant player taller than 6'8" and no regular contributor measuring more than 6'6", Irish big men Garrick Sherman and Tom Knight were responsible for six of Notre Dame's paltry total of eight second half field goals. Sherman recorded his first career double-double on the evening, producing 14 points and 13 rebounds with three blocked shots and five turnovers in 31 minutes.

"Sherman has to be out there. He's become the guy," said Brey.

The host Irish lacked offensive rhythm for the entire second stanza as the Bulldogs trimmed Notre Dame's lead from 39-27 at the break to four on Maynard's three-pointer.

"We played with game pressure, really, throughout the game," Brey noted.

With the exception of Pat Connaughton's driving scoop at the 16:31 mark and Grant's aforementioned dagger three, Sherman (4) and Knight (2) contributed Notre Dame's only field goals of the second half.

Bryant head coach Tim O'Shea was nonetheless impressed.

"I like the Sherman kid a lot, I think he's a very efficient low-post player," said O'Shea. "Grant's a potential NBA player. I think they're a team that will do very well in the ACC this year. They're an impressive group. Mike's teams always are."

Neither team shot well with Notre Dame hitting 40 percent and the Bulldogs 37.3 for the evening. The Irish missed 13 of 19 from long range while Bryant stayed afloat with a respectable 9 of 23 effort from beyond the arc.

The Irish out-rebounded the Bulldogs 44-30 and blocked eight shots.

Junior swingman Pat Connaughton recorded his second straight double-double, scoring 17 with 11 boards in 31 minutes. Connaughton's time was limited in the first half with two fouls defending breakaway dunk attempts by the Bulldogs.

"I don't know if I've coached a more solid guy who just doesn't let anything effect him," said Brey of Connaughton's ability to stay focused despite the pair of early fouls.

Notre Dame will face North Dakota State (6-3) Wednesday in the third of four games over an eight-day period for the Irish. The Bison defeated Bryant (6-4) 66-62 on the road Saturday and will square off vs. No. 3 Ohio State on December 14.

The Irish take a break from the round-robin Blackrock Gotham Classic to face in-state rival Indiana in the Crossroads Classic Saturday in Indianapolis before traveling to Madison Square Garden for a date with the Buckeyes on December 21, the marquee game of the Blackrock event.


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