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Backcourt Clicking On All Cylinders

Dec 13, 2012, 2:37 PM EST

AP

With Christmas approaching quickly, it’s one of the busiest times of the year. On the hardwood however, it’s been a slow couple of weeks, as the Fighting Irish have only played twice in the past 14 days.

As Notre Dame prepares for Saturday’s in-state clash with Purdue at the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis, let’s take a quick look back at the play of the Irish backcourt during this holiday season.

Over the last four games, the duo of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant has been nothing short of outstanding.

Against St. Francis (PA), Chicago State, Kentucky and Brown, Atkins averaged 13 points, 8.25 assists and two steals per game. During that stretch, he notched the second and third double-doubles of his tenure at Notre Dame, and set a career-high with 12 assists against the Bears. This all came while committing just one turnover (against the Wildcats) – a rather impressive stat for a player who handles the ball as often as the junior point guard.

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Photo by Kaitlyn Kiely

For comparison’s sake, Rajon Rondo, one of the top point guards in the NBA, is averaging 3.6 turnovers per game in 18 contests this season. Rondo’s 3.63 assist-to-turnover ratio currently ranks fourth in the league.

Atkins’ 33 assists to one turnover in the past four games is more than seven times greater than Jason Kidd’s NBA-leading 4.69 mark.

Likewise, teammate and fellow Maryland native Jerian Grant has been spectacular too.

Since the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Grant has averaged 14.5 points and 8 assists per game. Against Chicago State, he tied a career-high with 22 points, and added 10 assists to post his second career double-double.

Notre Dame and Purdue will meet for the first time since 2004 on Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on ESPN2. Next week, the Irish will host a trio of teams at home – IPFW (Dec. 17), Kennesaw State (Dec. 19) and Niagara (Dec. 21) – before an extended Christmas break (They won’t play again until Jan. 5 against Seton Hall).

It’s early in the season, BIG EAST play has not even started and the toughest games are still ahead, but if the duo of Atkins and Grant can continue to play at a high level, there won’t be many teams who look forward to matching up with the Fighting Irish this winter.

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