Notre Dame men's basketball: Iowa out-guns Irish

South Bend Tribune

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Playing at a comfort level seldom seen from him in a road atmosphere,

Notre Dame fifth-year power forward Garrick Sherman worked seemingly without a worry Tuesday on the parquet floor of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

A transfer from Michigan State who played two games at the place during his two Big Ten years, Sherman erupted for a career-high 29 points, including 18 in the first half, with nine rebounds, but the Irish simply couldn’t hang with the high-flying Hawkeyes in a 98-93 loss.

“I love playing here,” Sherman said. “A senior on the road, you’ve got to stand up for your team and play well. I tried to do that. It just (stinks) we couldn’t get the win.”

Eric Atkins added a season-high 23, while Jerian Grant delivered 13 points and 10 assists. Aaron White led Iowa, which placed five in double figures, with 20.

“We’re thrilled to win it,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who spent 11 seasons as an Irish assistant. “(Notre Dame) is a team that is going to be in the NCAA tournament. We want to be in the NCAA tournament.”

Able to hang nearly shot-for-shot with No. 23 Iowa, the visitors had their chances to make an early-season statement in the 15th-annual Big n/ACC Challenge.

For a chunk of the first half, it looked like this one might get away in a hurry. Down nine at intermission, Notre Dame responded time and again in a spirited second half in which it finally got Iowa’s transition game under control.

Playing at their tempo and getting some stops allowed the Irish to score 50 points and shoot 54.3 percent against the nation’s leader in field-goal percentage defense. They also committed only one turnover.

“I love our group, man,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “Like, we’re fine.” Down by as many as 11 early, the Irish received a wing 3 in front of their bench from freshman Demetrius Jackson to tie it at 71 with 8:46 remaining before the Hawkeyes (8-1) had a quick and seemingly easy answer. White skied over everyone for a rebound dunk to make it 73-71 fore Jared Uthoff dropped a 3-pointer from in front of the Hawkeye bench. Just like that, the Irish were back down five and scrambling with 7:29 remaining.

Notre Dame (5-2) responded – again.

Atkins tossed in a floater before a steal and dunk from Grant made it 76-75. Iowa extended its lead to six before Atkins connected on a corner 3 to bring the Irish within three, 85-82, with 2:36 remaining.

That’s as close as it would get even though an Atkins off-balance flip made it 91-88 Iowa with 38.6 seconds left.

Atkins then hit a 3 to make it 96-93 with less than two seconds left.

Trailing by nine to start the second half, Notre Dame smacked the home team in the gut with a 14-3 run the first 4:15. That flipped a 52-43 Irish disadvantage to a 57-55 Notre Dame lead following an Atkins drive with 15:45 remaining. Atkins’ bucket gave the visitors their first lead since it was 9-7. The run also erased what had been an 11-point Irish deficit less than five minutes earlier.

“We’re never going to give up,” Atkins said. “With the type of scorers we have on this team, we always have a chance to come back.”

That lead lasted all of 13 seconds before a Roy Devyn Marble 3 put Iowa up. Pat Connaughton answered with a 3 to bump the Irish back in front and make it interesting.

But nobody in the Notre Dame lineup could guard the quick and smooth-working Marble, who ripped off 12 straight points at one stretch to push Iowa back up by six with under 12 minutes remaining.

The Irish again opened with a four-around-one lineup of four perimeter players (Atkins, Connaughton, Grant, Jackson) around one power forward (Sherman). Prior to Tuesday, Sherman was the only Irish to have played in the unique building where only the roof sits above ground level. In the two games in the arena as a member of Michigan State, he combined for four points with two rebounds, two assists and a block in 18 total minutes.

He played a career-high 32 minutes Tuesday.

Sherman delivered 12 points Tuesday in the first 10-plus minutes. He came into the contest averaging 11.5. A flip shot with 7:19 remaining gave him 16 of Notre Dame’s 29.

“I’ve been focused,” Sherman said. “I started off the season inconsistent but now I’m in another gear when it gets to be a big game like this.”

But as fast as the Irish would score, the Hawkeyes would beat them down the floor and convert another easy look against a defense that was still trailing. It reached a point where Brey called for the Irish to slow the tempo and walk the ball up the floor. That helped Sherman, who was huge early, catch his breath.

“We just couldn’t guard them for long periods of time,” Brey said.

“I’m really impressed with Iowa, but I love my team.”

Early in the second half, it looked like the Hawkeyes had lost their collective legs playing their fourth game in six days.

Sherman was so effective early that it reached a point that when he went to the bench – and he needed to after picking up his second foul – it was a struggle for the Irish to get anything going offensively.

“We needed him to be a main guy for us,” Brey said.

Going small meant the Irish had some mismatches defensively, like the 6-foot-2 Atkins trying to guard White, who stands 6-8 but seemed more like a 7-footer with his wingspan.

So much size allowed Iowa to dominate the rebounding, 36-26.

“They’ve got a lot of length,” Brey said. “We got put in some tough situations.”

Tuesday’s game was the second non-league challenge this season for Notre Dame, which never did answer the first – a Nov. 17 loss at home to Indiana State. The intensity and focus were ratcheted up in practices in the days after that game to the point where Brey challenged his team to be better Tuesday than they were against the Sycamores.

For the most part, they were.

NOTRE DAME (5-2): Eric Atkins 8-16 3-5 23, Garrick Sherman 12-18 5-5 29, Jerian Grant 5-12 3-3 13, Demetrius Jackson 3-4 1-2 9, Pat Connaughton 4-12 2-2 12, Austin Burgett 1-2 1-2 3, Zach Auguste 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 35-68 15-19 93.

IOWA (8-1): Melsahn Basabe 3-4 0-0 6, Roy Devyn Marble 7-14 1-2 17, Mike Gesell 3-6 2-2 10, Aaron White 7-9 6-6 20, Adam Woodbury 2-3 2-2 6, Gabriel Olaseni 3-5 3-4 9, Peter Jok 1-3 0-0 3, Anthony Clemmons 0-3 0-0 0, Zach McCabe 3-5 3-3 10, Jarrod Uthoff 4-6 8-10 17. Totals 33-58 25-29 98.

Halftime — Iowa 52-43. 3-Point Goals — Notre Dame 8-17 (Atkins 4-5, Jackson 2-3, Connaughton 2-7, Grant 0-2), Iowa 7-13 (Gesell 2-3, Marble 2-5, McCabe 1-1, Uthoff 1-1, Jok 1-2, Clemmons 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Notre Dame 26 (Sherman 9), Iowa 36 (White 7).

Assists — Notre Dame 20 (Grant 10), Iowa 20 (White 7). Total Fouls — Notre Dame 22, Iowa 15. A — 15,400.

Notre Dame center Garrick Sherman, left, drives around Iowa center Adam Woodbury during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)