Notre Dame men’s basketball: Seasoned Sycamores shred Irish, 83-70

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Shredded in nearly every area by a seasoned squad that soared with confidence, No. 21 Notre Dame fell quickly out of character Sunday and fell hard at home to Indiana State.

Knowing they had to be really good from the start against a team that wasn’t intimidated by another average Purcell Pavilion atmosphere and one that played with the poise of a program to watch come March, the Irish men’s basketball team tumbled early into a hole and spent much of an aggravating afternoon trying to scramble out.

They never did.

Notre Dame suffered its most lopsided non-conference home loss under coach Mike Brey and saw its 30-game non-league home win streak snapped in an 83-70 loss. It was Notre Dame’s most lopsided non-league home loss since UCLA’s 83-58 victory Dec. 20, 1995.

On Sunday, the Irish trailed by 14 less than 13 minutes in and were down by as many as 15. Notre Dame’s lone lead over the final 37:06 lasted all of 21 seconds.

“Their veteran poise was better than our veteran poise,” said Brey, who had been 48-0 at home in November during his 14 seasons. “Disappointing for us. It wasn’t us not playing well; it was Indiana State imposing their will on us on both ends of the floor.”

Instead of fielding queries afterward about becoming the 54th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points, guard Eric Atkins was left to address how it all went wrong on a day it really needed to all go right.

“It hurts, but now it gives us a chance to respond,” said Atkins, who finished with a team-high 18 points in 39 minutes. “We’re going to have to bounce back. We just got beat by a very good team.

“They just beat us.”

And beat the Irish from the jump. Less than four minutes in, Notre Dame trailed for the first time this season. Seven minutes later, the deficit hit 10. Instead of continuing to do what it does, the home team seemingly panicked. The Irish quick-shot it. They drove it after two passes. They stopped moving it. They turned it over 16 times, including three miscues the first 3:18.

Who were those guys in gold?

“It’s frustrating in that a veteran group like us facing a veteran group like them, we expect more out of us as a team,” said junior captain Pat Connaughton. “That’s something we didn’t show today. At the end of the day, they just played better than us.”

Sunday was the first non-conference home loss for Notre Dame (2-1) since Dec. 12, 2009, when it lost to Loyola Marymount. That contest was decided in the closing seconds. This one never was that close.

It would have been an upset had Indiana State (2-1) returned to Terre Haute with a loss.

“The result, to us, is not a surprise,” said Sycamores forward Khristian Smith, who delivered 15 points in 25 minutes off the bench. “We fight hard. We prepare really well for games like this.”

As bad as the first half was for an Irish team that couldn’t get into any semblance of an offensive rhythm, couldn’t guard an arena usher and couldn’t take care of the ball before falling into a 10-point halftime hole, the home team actually had a little life — a lot of it — to start the second half.

Trailing by 12 in the opening minute, the Irish delivered some stops, moved the ball with a plan and cut deeply into their deficit. And when sophomore power forward Austin Burgett, pushing hard for a starting spot that might be his by the end of the week, delivered an old-fashion three-point play, the Irish capped a 15-2 run for a 45-44 lead with 15:07 remaining.

Turns out Indiana State had the home team right where it wanted.

Despite the effort of Brey to energize the slumbering crowd – he twice jumped up and down and shook his fist toward the sparse student section early in the second half – the visitors never got rattled.

The home team did.

There were times Sunday when the Sycamores, who shot 61.9 percent in the second half, 55 percent from 3 for the game and connected on 16 of 17 free throws, executed so efficiently that it seemed like they were operating six-on-four.

Notre Dame looked that scrambled and slow-footed.

Anything Indiana State wanted to do it did. A lot of what Notre Dame tried to do, it couldn’t.

“They have a lot of veteran guys and they weren’t going to give up easy,” said Irish guard Jerian Grant. “They were poised and hit the shots they needed to hit to get on another run and we didn’t.”

Instead of allowing Notre Dame to sail toward another home win, Indiana State ran off 10 unanswered points in a 4:47 burst to push the Irish back into a nine-point hole. The deficit swelled to 11, then 14, then 15.

“Sometimes you can fall into a trap after you take the lead at home,” Brey said. “Especially in this building, for us, it’s been like, ‘OK, we’ll figure out a way to get out of here.’

“We were scattered and they were attention to detail doing their thing.”

After seemingly grabbing control, Notre Dame staggered nearly eight minutes without a basket while Indiana State unleashed an 18-3 spurt. Game effectively over.

“I don’t think we got the necessary stops defensively,” Atkins said. “We got a little too excited coming back. We didn’t get that next stop after we took the lead and they ran away with it after that.”

INDIANA ST. (83): Justin Gant 6-12 2-2 17, Demetrius Moore 2-2 0-0 4, Manny Arop 3-8 4-4 13, Dawon Cummings 3-7 0-1 7, Jake Odum 2-6 6-6 10, Jake Kitchell 0-1 0-0 0, Lucas Eitel 0-0 0-0 0, Devonte Brown 3-5 2-2 10, Brandon Burnett 3-5 0-0 7, Khristian Smith 6-11 2-2 15, TJ Bell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-58 16-17 83.

NOTRE DAME (70): Tom Knight 0-1 0-0 0, Garrick Sherman 2-6 0-0 4, Eric Atkins 6-13 4-6 18, Jerian Grant 4-14 8-9 17, Pat Connaughton 5-10 2-4 16, V.J. Beachem 0-1 0-0 0, Patrick Crowley 1-2 0-0 2, Austin Burgett 1-3 1-1 3, Demetrius Jackson 1-5 0-0 2, Zach Auguste 3-7 0-0 6, Steve Vasturia 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 24-65 15-20 70.

Halftime  Indiana St. 40-30. 3-Point Goals  Indiana St. 11-20 (Gant 3-4, Arop 3-4, Brown 2-3, Smith 1-2, Burnett 1-3, Cummings 1-3, Odum 0-1), Notre Dame 7-26 (Connaughton 4-7, Atkins 2-4, Grant 1-6, Beachem 0-1, Vasturia 0-2, Burgett 0-2, Jackson 0-4). Fouled Out  Burgett. Rebounds  Indiana St. 37 (Odum 7), Notre Dame 37 (Auguste, Connaughton 8). Assists  Indiana St. 11 (Odum 5), Notre Dame 13 (Atkins, Grant 5). Total Fouls  Indiana St. 18, Notre Dame 17. A  8,257.

Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson is gaurded by Indiana State's Khristian Smith on Sunday at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Indiana State beat the Irish, 83-70.