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A “Big” Night for the Irish

Feb 14, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

(Photo / Matt Cashore)

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 @JrNDBlogger.

Tuesday night, Notre Dame men’s basketball played the Clemson Tigers at Purcell Pavilion for the first time in program history. Based on the way Notre Dame’s season has gone leading up to this game, nobody gave the Irish a chance and thought this was just going to be chalked up as a defeat at the end of the night.

This particular mood was best exemplified by the lack of students in attendance at the beginning of the game. However, if you were one of the fans in attendance or watching the game on television then you were surely in for a treat. In this double overtime thriller, the Irish were able to squeak out a victory over the Tigers by a score of 68-64 to move one game above .500 at 13-12.

Looking at the box score, it is easy to see who had the best game for the Irish: Zach Auguste. The sophomore, forward has been averaging 6.4 points per game this season. Tuesday night, Auguste scored six points within the first two and a half minutes of the contest. Auguste looked as though he was playing looser.

“I am really happy with his progress,” Coach Brey stated. “He’s getting confident and I think Eric (Atkins) and Pat (Connaughton) have done a good job at getting him confident.”

His confidence showed as Auguste tied his season high with 14 points, in a season-high 38 minutes of playing time.

Tonight the Irish did a really good job at rebounding the ball both on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. A prime example of this comes from Auguste’s team-leading 12 rebounds (six offensive and six defensive). Personally, I liked seeing Auguste in the mix of things because I like when the Irish play a “bigger lineup.”

Players like Eric Atkins, Pat Connaughton and V.J. Beachem who can not only shoot around the perimeter, but also can drive the ball inside and pose a serious threat to any team they go up against. Then when you put those players alongside bigs like Garrick Sherman and Auguste, it makes for a solid lineup that can get key rebounds down the stretch of close games.

Other than the actual game itself, tonight was also a big night with some off-the-court news. Before the game, @NDmbb tweeted some surprising news about freshman guard Demetrius Jackson.

This caused everyone, including myself to begin to speculate on why Jackson would not be at the game. This thought lingered in my mind throughout the entirety of the game. When it came time for the press conference, I was eager to hear what Brey had to say about the matter.

Soon after Brey made his opening statement, one reporter asked what every Irish fan was wondering, “What is the status of Demetrius?” Brey answered this question in a calm manner in the best way a head coach could.

“It’s really simple. Academic habits. He had such a great fall semester and summer, and he’s just behind,” Brey answered. “He needs to improve his academic habits.”

As a former high school teacher and coach, Brey knows when to say, “We can’t go on like this; something has got to change.”

Unlike Jerian Grant’s situation, Jackson’s “dismissal” from the team appears like it will not last the entire spring semester. “We’ll give him some time to get caught up, and if he is, the end of the week we’ll get him back to practice and go from there,” Brey made clear.

This appears to be just a minor “bump in the road” (pardon the cliche) for Jackson. Hopefully, with the proper guidance from his coaches and professors, he will be back in an Irish uniform by the time the Irish come back to Purcell in a couple weeks to face Georgia Tech.

Notre Dame’s next game, however, is a road game in which the team travels up to Chestnut Hill to play the Eagles of Boston College in a Sunday night showdown. Tip off is scheduled for 6:00 PM and the game can be seen on ESPNU.

About In The Paint

Welcome to In The Paint, the official blog providing in-depth and exclusive access to the Notre Dame basketball programs. With features, videos, photos, commentaries and news from inside the Purcell Pavilion, we are committed to bringing you coverage of the Fighting Irish unlike any you can find elsewhere.

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