Nov. 1, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The University of Notre Dame men’s basketball team boasted four double-digit scorers and hit more than half of its field goal attempts as the Fighting Irish toppled Minnesota Duluth 88-71 in their exhibition opener on Saturday afternoon inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
After a back-and-forth first five minutes that saw the Bulldogs take a brief 12-11 lead, the Irish seized the momentum by pushing the tempo on both ends of the floor. Following the bucket that put UMD ahead, Notre Dame pressed on defense and dictated the pace on offense, steadily improving its field goal percentage to open up a 25-18 lead with 7:47 to go before halftime.
Sophomore Demetrius Jackson looked comfortable at the point guard position, leading the Irish attack in the first half with drives to the basket for easy buckets or to open up outside shots. Jackson had 13 points at the break, and finished with 20 on 6-of-10 shooting — including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc — to lead the Irish.
“I feel very comfortable,” Jackson said of calling plays from the point. “Coach has kept telling me that if there is a play that I see, to go ahead and call it, and he does a good job working with me calling out plays, too. My teammates definitely help me out as well.”
“Demetrius could not wait to get the ball in his hands, and he has a great feel for this system,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. “I did not know he had that in him because he wasn’t at the throttle last year. … He got creative and was driving and attacking. He was going for it today.”
The Irish continued their run in the second half, leading by as many as 20 when senior guard Pat Connaughton hit a layup to make it 67-47 with 11:03 remaining. The Bulldogs climbed back within 10 (74-64), but the Irish stretched it out again in the final five minutes before the horn.
Connaughton finished with a double-double, 15 points and 11 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds. Junior forward Zach Auguste finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, and senior guard Jerian Grant had 12 points and nine assists in his return to the Irish lineup.
“I think it’s great that you have four out of five starters with double figures,” Connaughton said. “We move the ball well, everyone can pass and made good passes at different times.”
Notre Dame shot 51.6 percent (32-of-62) from the floor, including 42.9 percent (9-of-21) from 3-point range. The Irish out-rebounded the Bulldogs 45-33 and registered 20 assists.
“We can score and move the ball. We’re back to a four-around-one offense and we can spread the floor,” Brey said. “We have guys who can get in the paint and guys who can make shots. I do think we’re going to be able to score, which takes some heat off our defense and defensive rebuilding. We shot free throws just okay today, and we still almost scored 90.”
Minnesota Duluth’s Brett Ervin led all scorers with 29 points.
The Irish return to action at 7 p.m. (ET) Friday when they take on Lewis in the exhibition finale back at Purcell Pavilion. Single game tickets are available at the Murnane Family Ticket Center. For more information, call 574-631-7356 or visit www.UND.com/BuyTickets.
— Joanne Norell, Media Relations Assistant