Irish hoops already know Seminoles well

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Scattered about a section of lower-level seats at Mohegan Sun Arena Casino last month, members of the No. 25 Notre Dame men’s basketball team watched an early-afternoon game with increased interest.

Notre Dame eventually would take the floor to face Providence in the finale of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament. But the game that proceeded that one, Massachusetts and Florida State, was worth watching.

Thanks to a major quirk in the schedule, two teams from the same conference, were placed in the same weekend doubleheader. That allowed coaches and players from Florida State and Notre Dame to get a good, long look at the other in advance of the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for each on Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN2) at Purcell Pavilion.

“It was very weird,” Irish coach Mike Brey said of the chance to scout the Seminoles in person over two days. “Very unusual situation that we saw them and then you’re going to see them a month later.”

Brey cut short a media session the previous day after Notre Dame’s victory over Massachusetts so he could catch the second half of the Providence-Florida State game. He wanted to watch the Friars in advance of the following day’s matchup, but he also made a few notes on the Seminoles.

“You do feel you know them, and they know us a little bit better,” Brey said.

Irish guard Jerian Grant took time both days to watch Florida State and knows a little more of what to expect heading into Saturday.

“They have a lot of size,” Grant said. “They struggle to score (ninth in the ACC at 70.2 ppg.) but their defense is always going to be there. If they hit shots, you know it’s going to be a great game.”

Getting Geben going

Freshman power forward Martinas Geben stopped by the Irish basketball offices Wednesday, the team’s off day, wanting to watch tape of some of his recent work.

“He came in and said, ‘I’m not playing as well as I should,’” Brey said. “That’s how mature he is. He’s a sharp kid.”

Brey declined to press play even though Geben has labored without a basket the last four games. Knowing Geben is so analytical about everything with his game, he feared the freshman would overanalyze everything. So Brey kept it brief. He encouraged Geben to rebound, to defend, to make quicker decisions with the ball after having a tendency to hold it too long.

He also reinforced that Geben continue to set the solid screens that have helped spring Grant and fellow guard Demetrius Jackson to make plays.

“Jerian loves playing with him,” Brey said. “That right there means a lot.”

Brey also has met with trainer Skip Meyer and strength and conditioning coach Tony Rolinski about securing a better playing weight for Geben, who goes 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds and has recently experienced tendinitis in his knees.

Unable to do much weightlifting late in his senior year of high school because of a broken left wrist, Geben put on a whole lot of pounds once the injury healed. He played his senior year at 225 pounds. Geben recently met with a nutritionist in an effort to tweak his diet.

Geben has appeared in all 10 games and is averaging 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11.7 minutes. He’s shooting 66.7 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the foul line. The first big man off the bench as the team’s seventh man all season, Geben will again figure into the rotation against Florida State and its three 7-footers.

“We need that guy,” Brey said. “We need him right.”

Beachem better

Sophomore swingman V.J. Beachem shed his crutches and walked into Purcell Pavilion without any limp Thursday just over a week after suffering a plantar fascia tear in his right foot.

“I’m getting better,” said Beachem, the team’s sixth man averaging 8.4 points and shooting 57.1 percent from the field, 55.6 percent from 3 in 16.0 minutes, all career-best numbers.

Brey doesn’t expect Beachem back for any of the three games – Florida State (Saturday), Purdue (Dec. 20) or Northern Illinois (Dec. 22) – before Christmas. Notre Dame then gets four days off before reconvening for an evening practice Dec. 27, Beachem’s target return date.

“I would love for that to be my late Christmas present,” Brey said.

D-League doings

One of the final training camp roster cuts of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, former Irish power forward Jack Cooley played one game with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League before suffering a right thumb injury.

Cooley scored eight points with three rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot in 18 minutes for the Stampede. He’s expected to be out another month. Cooley is back near his Chicago-area home until the injury heals. He attended Notre Dame’s Dec. 3 home game against Michigan State and plans to be at Saturday’s game against Florida State.

Cooley is expected to rejoin the Stampede, a Jazz affiliate, when the thumb injury heals.

• Former Irish guard Ben Hansbrough is averaging 8.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 22.4 minutes over seven games with the Grand Rapids Drive, a Detroit Pistons affiliate in the D-League. Hansbrough is shooting 44.2 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from 3 and 76.5 percent from the foul line.

The 2011 Big East player of the year was a first-round pick, fifth overall, in the Nov. 1 draft by the Drive.

• Former Irish assistant coach Gene Cross is in first season as an assistant with the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Cross spent the previous two D-League seasons as head coach of the Erie (Pa.) BayHawks.

Notre Dame got a first-hand look of Aaron Thomas and Florida State last month at Mohegan Sun Arena Casino in Uncasville, Conn.AP File Photo