Notre Dame men's basketball: Sherman shores up game in rout of Army

South Bend Tribune

He would prefer to spend fall Sunday afternoons tracking his favorite NFL teams, the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, or hearing the latest on his younger brother's high school squad, still chasing a state football championship back home in Kenton, Ohio.

But on this wintry Sunday afternoon, Notre Dame fifth-year senior power forward Garrick Sherman had to do something he doesn't always like to — talk about his game.

Able to put together a second solid effort after a sluggish showing eight days earlier, Sherman delivered a season-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting with seven rebounds and three blocks in 23 efficient minutes as Notre Dame moved to 4-1 with a 93-60 victory over Army at Purcell Pavilion.

“You don't have to rush,” Sherman said of his work. “Last year as soon as I got on the court, you better make a play if you wanted to stay on. Playing my game, I let the game come to me.”

Prior to parking himself on the couch to watch football the previous Sunday, Sherman slipped quickly out of Purcell Pavilion having labored through a four-point, five-rebound effort in a 13-point loss to Indiana State. The subsequent days of reflection included a mere 10-second conversation with coach Mike Brey for a guy who has played 105 career games.

“He didn't need to go to confession,” Brey said. “We need him. He has to be that scoring threat in the low post.”

Sherman knew he had to be better. He's since been and piggy-backed a 16-point, 8-rebound effort 48 hours earlier in a win over Santa Clara with another big effort. He was able to play really well and then really, really well just by keeping his game simple.

He's not trying to force something when he catches it in the post. And he is catching it around the basket instead of fumbling it out of bounds. He's made good decisions — shoot it, go into his move or kick it back out. He's not driving it from 15 feet through a bunch of bodies. He's parked himself near the rim and has finished at it. He's finally playing with the all-important free mind and not the weight of the world on the shoulders of his 6-foot-11 frame.

Among Irish bigs, Sherman has been the most consistent — and healthiest — since practice started in late September. Sherman's just had to show more of that when it matters. The last two games, he has.

“I was kind of rushing it against Indiana State, got out of control,” Sherman said. “Just taking what's there, letting the game come to me. I know where I'm most effective.”

He's also gotten to the foul line 14 times the last two games. That puts even more pressure on the defense and opens up everything else for everyone.

“I'm really pleased with the weekend for him,” Brey said. “Maybe it's the most important weekend for any of our players, for him to get into a gear again.”

Sherman wasn't alone Sunday for success. Four other Irish scored double figures, including guard Jerian Grant, who quietly did a little of everything with 19 points, a team-high eight assists and a career-high six steals. Eric Atkins offered 13 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals. After managing only one point the first 32 minutes, former Marian standout Demetrius Jackson finished with a flurry for 11 points with four assists, four rebounds and two steals in a career-high 24 minutes.

Also delivering something strong for a second-straight game was sophomore Zach Auguste who scored a season-high 14 points, one shy of his career best, with five rebounds in 14 minutes. He did it by worrying less about his role and more about what the team needed.

“I want to come in there and score, rebound, whatever I needed to do,” Auguste said. “You've got to stop worrying about scoring and just focus on the little things like scoring and rebounding. From there, you can move on.”

Dylan Cox led Army (1-4) with 11 points.

“That's a very talented team and they can play a couple ways,” coach Zach Spiker said of the Irish. “They have a tremendous coach to lead them and that's why they are good and are going to be good.”

After sleep-walking through the first half — Brey jumped his guys verbally at intermission wondering why they played with such a lack of everything — Notre Dame dominated the second. The Irish attacked in waves, at one point ripping off 18 consecutive points to lead by as many as 35 before scoring 60 in the final 20 minutes. Notre Dame shot a ridiculous 75 percent from the field (24-of-32) and from 3 (6-of-8). Pounded early on the backboard — at one point Army led the rebounding battle 16-6 — the Irish made a collective effort to be better and get help from everyone to finish with a 39-34 advantage. They also forced 22 turnovers, registered 14 steals and limited the Black Knights to 20 percent (5-of-25) from the 3-point line.

Where was the energy from the start?

“We were just sloppy, looked disinterested,” Atkins said. “Coach really got into us about not showing energy, not being the most excited to play today. We did turn it around in the second half.

“I'm not exactly sure what it is going to take to turn that around in the first half but we're going to have to against a better team.”

ARMY (1-4): Tanner Plomb 3-8 1-2 7, Kevin Ferguson 5-6 0-0 10, Dylan Cox 5-8 1-5 11, Kyle Wilson 3-10 0-0 7, Josh Herbeck 2-11 0-0 6, Maxwell Lenox 0-2 0-0 0, Mo Williams 1-2 0-0 3, Scott Mammel 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Gramling 1-4 0-0 2, Mac Hoffman 0-0 0-0 0, Larry Toomey 3-6 3-4 10, Kyle Weldon 0-2 0-0 0, Kieffer Jordan 1-2 0-0 2, Tanner Omlid 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 25-64 5-11 60.

NOTRE DAME (4-1): Austin Burgett 1-4 0-0 2, Garrick Sherman 7-9 5-6 19, Eric Atkins 5-16 1-2 13, Jerian Grant 7-10 4-4 19, Pat Connaughton 2-3 0-0 6, VJ Beachem 0-0 0-0 0, Patrick Crowley 0-0 0-0 0, Demetrius Jackson 4-7 1-2 11, Tom Knight 1-2 5-5 7, Zach Auguste 7-9 0-3 14, Setve Vasturia 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 35-62 16-22 93.

Halftime — Notre Dame 33-25. 3-Point Goals — Army 5-25 (Herbeck 2-11, Toomey 1-1, Williams 1-2, Wilson 1-3, Lenox 0-1, Gramling 0-1, Jordan 0-1, Omlid 0-2, Plomb 0-3), Notre Dame 7-17 (Connaughton 2-3, Jackson 2-3, Atkins 2-6, Grant 1-2, Vasturia 0-1, Burgett 0-2). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Army 34 (Cox 8), Notre Dame 39 (Sherman 7). Assists — Army 18 (Cox 5), Notre Dame 26 (Grant 8). Total Fouls — Army 16, Notre Dame 12. A — 8,941.

Notre Dame's Zach Auguste (30) grabs a rebound from the hands of Army's Kevin Ferguson (31) during first half action at Purcell Pavilion on Sunday November 24, 2013. SBT Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES