Nov 25, 2013, 10:43 AM EDT
Mike Franz, the official 2013-14 men’s basketball beat writer for the In The Paint blog, is currently a sophomore at Holy Cross College. Over the course of the year Mike will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and stories from inside the team circle. You can follow Mike (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBloggers.
Although the highlight of the weekend for Notre Dame athletics was the snowy football game against BYU, Irish men’s basketball had two games within 48 hours this weekend against Santa Clara and Army on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
The Real Deal
Five days after a tough loss against Indiana State, Notre Dame needed to bounce back with a good win. In front of a packed crowd, to say the team “bounced back” would be an understatement.
After having a back and forth battle with the Broncos in the first half, Notre Dame showed their true colors and dominated the second half. Outscoring Santa Clara by nine points in the second half, the Irish improved to 3-1 after an 84-69 victory.
One of the things the Irish improved from last Sunday was scoring off of the bench. Against Indiana State, the bench players for Notre Dame scored a combined 15 points from six players. Friday, they scored 23 points with only three players. Of these three bench players, Demetrius Jackson proved he is the real deal with his performance.
In the first three games of the year, Jackson combined for 15 points. Friday, Jackson almost doubled that by tallying 13 total points.
“My teammates and coaches did a great job of motivating me,” Jackson said about his big night. “I got the rebounds and the coaches were telling me to just let it out tonight.”
Jackson’s night culminated in an old school three-point play with a strong lay-in that resulted in an “and one” opportunity. When he saw the basket count, he let out a battle cry that shook the arena. This energy is what the Irish need from him as they begin ACC play in January.
Demetrius has shown signs of development already in the short span of time he has been on the team. Jackson attested to the fact that it is a process to become a great college basketball player. “I want to be patient. It doesn’t come overnight,” he said. “You have to work hard and continue to work hard throughout the whole season and it will come to you.”
Along with shooting the ball well Friday night, other aspects of Jackson’s game were on showcase tonight as well. To name a few, he finished the night with eight total rebounds and made all five of his free throws.
Mike Brey showed his appreciation for Jackson’s performance in a postgame interview.
“We saw the college welcoming party for Demetrius Jackson. He was comfortable out on the floor,” Brey said. “He gave us great energy and he can really build on this because he is such a key for us.”
Finding Their Identity
The Irish finished up their weekend against Army on Sunday. Although the first half of play was very sloppy, the team gathered themselves at halftime and came out in the second half with a sharp focus, outscoring the Black Knights by 25 points in the second half. Notre Dame improved their record to 4-1 with a 93-60 victory over Army on the back of 75.0% shooting in the second half.
Notre Dame basketball is currently trying to find their identity on the court. So far in this season, head coach Mike Brey has tried many different combinations of players. Today at one point they had four guards out on the court at the same time.
“The one thing we were able to do today is play a lot of different combinations together,” Brey stated. “I’m certainly still learning about our team and probably will be for a while.”
In trying these new combinations, Austin Burgett was able to get his first career start with the Fighting Irish. I believe when he is out on the court, Notre Dame is in the best position to win the game due to his athleticism and ability to shoot from the outside.
In the past two games, Burgett has combined for 15 rebounds. This sort of presence underneath the basket is something that has not come by easily so far this season for the Irish.
The most potent lineup I have seen is when Atkins, Grant, Connaughton, Auguste, and Burgett are out on the court together. Although you lose a little size when Sherman and Knight are not on the floor, you certainly do gain speed which it looks like that is the style of play Brey wants to use this season.
The only thing that can deter this lineup from actually happening is Burgett’s unfortunate ability to get in foul trouble early.
Mike Brey attested to this fact, “I think he’s going to have to be smarter. He’s getting so many cheap ones with the new hand-check rule. I believe he’s quick enough to move his feet on these guys.”
Garrick Sherman played outstanding today copping a season-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds. Starting either Tom Knight or Burgett next to Sherman will be one of those things Brey will have to contemplate over and see who is having the better week of practice.
Today was Notre Dame’s last game in November and, with the win, the team’s all-time home record in November under Mike Brey improved to 50-1. The Irish now have a week until their last game of this home stand where they take on Cornell. The game starts at 1:00PM and can be seen on ESPN3.
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