Notre Dame men's basketball: Connaughton flips switch in Irish rout

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- Drifting through another game without making much of an impact as he did twice late last month was not an option Sunday for Notre Dame junior swingman Pat Connaughton. The Irish co-captain is too key a guy to take just three shots like he did the previous time out against Army or grab only four rebounds as he did the game before that against Santa Clara. For the Irish to maximize this college basketball season, Connaughton needs to be active and engaged from the jump as he works his way into doing a little of everything. Like against Cornell at Purcell Pavilion. Back to his hard-working and hustling ways, Connaughton registered his third career double-double for points (18) and rebounds (10) and tied his season high with five assists in a 101-67 victory. “In order to be successful, in order to help this team out, I need to start being more aggressive on the offensive end,” said Connaughton, who finished 7-of-13 from the floor. “It’s something I’ve always done but something I haven’t been doing the last few years. “It’s something I focused on and something I look to improve going forward.” Conversations between Connaughton and Irish coach Mike Brey regarding his previous two games were brief. Brey insisted a five-second chat was about all No. 24 required to understand that more from him is needed. “That’s how he’s practiced,” Brey said. “It’s great to see him play that way.” “I’ve got to be better,” Connaughton said. “It starts on whatever end you want it to start on. It’s something I had to focus on and go back to the way I play. “It’s something last weekend kind of woke me up to.” Thanks to the season’s third lineup switch, Connaughton started as the team’s second big man. He also jumped at the chance of teammate Garrick Sherman’s offer to jump center. At 6-foot-5, Connaughton easily won the tip from Cornell’s Deion Giddens, who stands 6-10. “I can jump,” said Connaughton, who jumped center for the first time since high school. “You’re looking at the dunk champion of our squad. These guys know I can jump.” Notre Dame set a season high for points by again being unbelievably efficient and spreading it around to a host of able scorers. Six Irish hit for double figures, including a game-high 20 by senior guard Jerian Grant, who reached a historic milestone. Knowing he needed 20 points to become the 55th player in school history — and second this season — to hit for 1,000 in his career, Grant refused to force any issue. He didn’t attempt a shot until just over nine minutes remained in the first half. Once he started shooting, he seldom missed and finished 8-of-10 from the floor. A drive and free throw with 7:18 remaining in a lopsided second half allowed Grant — who still has a year of eligibility if he chooses — to get to an even 1,000. “I knew eventually the ball was going to come to me,” Grant said. “I knew as long as I kept playing hard, kept running the floor, we were going to get going.” The Irish also had 28 assists to only five turnovers. The home team turned it over just once in a second half that saw it score 60 points, shoot 62.2 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from 3. There seemingly was no better way to feel good about Tuesday’s trek to No. 23 Iowa (7-1) than for the Irish (5-1) to play this well after a week away from game action. “Our efficiency’s pretty good,” Brey said. “We’ll take that.” Sunday also saw Brey take the training wheels off former Marian standout Demetrius Jackson. He made his first collegiate start and delivered 11 points, four assists and two rebounds in a career-high 27 minutes. Starting Jackson first entered Brey’s thought process following the Nov. 22 victory over Santa Clara. Jackson was part of a group that helped bust that game open with its energy. The week away from game action allowed Brey to take a long look at starting Jackson. He liked enough of what he saw to go with the former McDonald’s All-American in a group that likely starts again Tuesdayin Iowa City in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. “I liked that lineup for stretches in previous games and I liked it in practice,” Brey said. “He really has been getting better and better since the Santa Clara game so we felt we’d go that way.” Jackson learned Friday that he would be in the starting lineup. “I just wanted to go out and do exactly what I did coming off the bench and better,” he said. “I didn’t have any nerves. That’s all credit to my teammates and coaches helping me become more and more comfortable. “It was great to start. It was very cool.” Going small didn’t necessarily produce a solid start. Though the Irish led by as many as 37, they allowed the Big Red to score the first eight points. A 10-0 run allowed the Irish to regain a lead they wouldn’t relinquish and subsequent 22-4 run put this one away quickly. “We got great looks early, couldn’t make any of them,” said Brey, whose team started 0-for-5 from the floor. “The one thing I was hoping with that group is it would give us a better start. “I think I’ve got to give them another chance at that Tuesday night.” Jackson’s former Marian High School teammate, Cornell sophomore guard Robert Mischler, returned home to play for the first time in his collegiate career. Mischler set up in the corner nearest the Big Red bench in the game’s closing minute and connected on his only shot — a 3-pointer — for the day’s final basket. “I just got a good, clean look,” said Mischler, who has three 3’s for nine points this season. “I just knocked it down.” Nolan Cressler led Cornell (0-9) with 17 points. At Purcell PavilionCORNELL (0-9): Dwight Tarwater 4-6 0-0 10, Deion Giddens 1-3 0-0 2, Nolan Cressler 6-15 3-4 17, Robert Hatter 6-12 2-4 15, Devin Cherry 2-6 2-2 7, David Onuorah 0-2 0-0 0, Darryl Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Dave LaMore 2-2 0-1 4, Desmond Fleming 0-0 0-0 0, Dominick Scelfo 1-5 0-0 3, Jake Matthews 2-4 0-2 4, Robert Mischler 1-1 0-0 3, Jojo Fallas 0-0 0-0 0, Montez Blair 0-1 0-0 0, Ned Tomic 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-59 7-13 67. NOTRE DAME (5-1): Garrick Sherman 4-9 4-4 12, Eric Atkins 7-16 2-2 19, Jerian Grant 8-10 2-2 20, Demetrius Jackson 3-6 2-2 11, Pat Connaughton 7-13 1-1 18, V.J. Beachem 1-2 0-0 2, Austin Burgett 1-1 0-0 2, Tom Knight 2-4 0-0 4, Zach Auguste 4-8 2-5 10, Steve Vasturia 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 38-70 13-16 101. Halftime — Notre Dame 41-32. 3-Point Goals — Cornell 8-21 (Tarwater 2-3, Cressler 2-5, Mischler 1-1, Hatter 1-3, Cherry 1-3, Scelfo 1-4, Matthews 0-2), Notre Dame 12-25 (Jackson 3-4, Atkins 3-8, Connaughton 3-8, Grant 2-3, Vasturia 1-1, Beachem 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Cornell 27 (Cressler 9), Notre Dame 43 (Connaughton 10). Assists — Cornell 15 (Hatter 6), Notre Dame 28 (Atkins 6). Total Fouls — Cornell 15, Notre Dame 12. A — 8,636. 574-235-6153 Twitter: TNoie@NDInsider

Notre Dame guard Pat Connaughton (24) steals the ball from Cornell guard Dominick Scelfo (12) during a men's NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, at the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER
Notre Dame guard Pat Connaughton (24) dunks the ball after a steal during a men's NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, at the Purcell Pavilion at Notre Dame. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER