Dec 16, 2013, 3:44 PM EST
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.
Saturday afternoon the Irish were in action against the Indiana Hoosiers at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. The Crossroads Classic is a three-year old tradition in the state of Indiana where the schools of Butler, Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana play each other in two games. The Classic takes place at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers. This year Notre Dame and Indiana took on each other in the first game with Purdue and Butler playing in the second game.
This game was a must win for the Irish after the heart-breaking defeat against North Dakota State on Wednesday night. This game also could not have happened on a bigger day for senior Eric Atkins as it was his 22nd birthday Saturday. The best thing about a basketball season is that no matter how sour a loss tastes, there is always another game to boost team morale and get the win.
Saturday was that day for the Irish with them holding off the Hoosiers of Indiana by a score of 79-72. It was not about one particular player having an outstanding day scoring. It was about the entire Irish squad coming together as one unit and getting the victory together.
Seven of the nine players who saw minutes Saturday scored. And three of these seven scored in the double digits (Sherman, Grant and Connaughton). The ability to get clutch buckets tonight was the sole reason the Hoosiers were not able to grab the lead in the second half.
This entire season, so far, Notre Dame has been able to compile large amounts of points in each game. This fact has culminated in Notre Dame ranking third in the ACC (behind Duke and Pittsburgh) in average points per game (81.4).
When playing teams like Indiana who have a high powered offense, you need to trade shot for shot in order to have a chance against these juggernauts. Notre Dame does this extremely well, especially with the talents in the four guards of Atkins, Grant, Connaughton and Atkins. As a fast-paced offense, Notre Dame is never out of any game and when they have the lead, like Saturday, they have the ability to never relinquish that said lead.
Mike-Lights (My Highlights of the Game)
1) Defense Needs Work- With the Notre Dame offense scoring a lot in each game, their opponents are scoring a lot as well. In the ACC, the Irish rank 12th in average points given up per game with 69.5. In today’s game, Notre Dame gave up 72 points. And in certain instances during the game, especially in the paint they really did “give up” the points by not staying strong in the lanes, which falls on big men, Knight and Sherman. They will need to improve this before next Saturday’s game against the Buckeyes.
2) Tom Knight Emerges- After having a couple games of only scoring two to four points in a game. His game really stepped up Saturday as he scored eight points coming off the bench. If you watched the game, Knight was playing with a lot of intensity today, probably resulting from not scoring much in previous games. If Knight brings this intensity to every game, he will certainly get much more playing time.
3) Sherman’s Streak- With Garrick Sherman’s 16 points today, he extended his double digit scoring streak to eight games. This is a career high for him. And the Irish will need his streak to reach to nine games as their next game is against the #3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Notre Dame now has a much needed week long break for final exams after their long stretch of games. Although they are having a physically needed break, now they will be mentally tested with their final exams. After these grueling exams, the Irish can start their Christmas break on Saturday with a trip to Madison Square Garden to face the Buckeyes of Ohio State. This is a big game for the team with a win boosting team morale and striking fear into their first ACC opponent of Duke.
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