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November 12, 2012

Bench play buoys Irish

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - That's the Garrick Sherman the Notre Dame basketball program knows all about.

It's no secret to the rest of college basketball now.

Sherman, the transfer from Michigan State, scored 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds - six on the offensive end - as No. 22/23 Notre Dame overcame some early turnover problems against Monmouth's pressure defense to claim an 84-57 victory Monday night at Purcell Pavilion.

"I haven't been playing very well, so it was nice to kind of break out of my slump and start playing better," Sherman said. "I haven't been playing up to my potential, and I owe it to Coach Brey and to this program to start playing better."

Sherman entered the lineup with freshman Cameron Biedscheid at the 14-minute mark of the first half and sparked the Irish, who turned the basketball over 10 times in the first half and were tied at seven five-and-a-half minutes into the game.

Notre Dame (2-0) went on 12-2 and 11-2 runs due in large part to Sherman and Biedscheid, who combined for 14 of Notre Dame's 35 first-half points.

"They gave us scoring and we don't let down defensively, especially with Sherm in there," Mike Brey said. "Maybe sometimes we're better defensively when he's in there."

Pat Connaughton tossed in 10 of his 13 points in the first half as the Irish built a 17-point lead that was whittled down to 12 at the intermission. But with Jack Cooley scoring 16 and the bench accounting for 37 points, the Irish were able to extend their lead into the 20s in the second half and stretch it out to 27 at the final buzzer.

"He needed this one," said Brey of Sherman. "He's got that ability and we've seen it in practice. But he hadn't done it with the uniform on. So this was important for him before we head to Brooklyn. That's a game that makes him believe he's really part of it."

Brey knew Sherman would excel once he overcame a case of the nerves in his first live appearances in a Notre Dame uniform.

"We tried to get him to slow down a little bit," Brey said. "He can play a little fast and sometimes wants to be too crafty. He has the ability to be very crafty with his footwork and his hands around the bucket.

"We did a good job feeding him. He has such a good feel against all that run and jump stuff. He has the best feel to present himself as a receiver in a good spot."

Notre Dame connected on just 6-of-21 from beyond the arc, and guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant were scoreless in the first half. But with the bench's strong contribution, Connaughton's 3-of-8 shooting from three-point range, and better handling of the basketball in the second half (just six turnovers), the Irish pulled away from the Hawks.

"They play the right way, they share the ball," said Monmouth head coach King Rice. "You can see they're a team, and that's what we're trying to build. I take my hat off to Coach Brey and the Notre Dame team."

Scott Martin added eight points and eight rebounds for the Irish. Biedscheid had nine points on 4-of-10 shooting, but was 0-of-5 from three-point range.

"He's going to have to make shots for us," said Brey of Biedscheid. "We're a little streaky out there, and he's a guy that can make three in a night or five in a night."

Freshman Zach Auguste, who didn't play in the season-opening victory over Evansville, hit a 12-foot jumper, grabbed two rebounds, and blocked a shot in four minutes of first-half action. He finished with four points and three rebounds. Freshman Austin Burgett also scored a basket in his collegiate debut.

Atkins, Grant, Connaughton and Biedscheid each had five assists.

"I can get in the lane and hit a mid-range shot or a lay-up, but if there's someone open, I have confidence they'll knock down their shots," Biedscheid said. "Coach Brey really makes you feel comfortable when you're out there. You know exactly what he wants you to do, but he wants you to do it your own way."

Notre Dame plays St. Joseph's this Friday in the CVS Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Irish play the winner/loser of Florida State-Brigham Young Saturday night.

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