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December 8, 2012

Irish polish off Bears


NOTRE DAME, Ind. - A nine-day layoff didn’t slow No. 22 Notre Dame on Saturday night. Neither did the Purcell Pavilion atmosphere, well off its fevered Kentucky pitch. Playing without key reserve Garrick Sherman was a borderline positive, the forward out with a knee injury.

Notre Dame (8-1) could have needed a moment to shake off the rust against Brown (3-5), could have needed a half to pump some energy into the crowd of 8,360 and could have needed a few timeouts to work bigs Tom Knight and Zach Auguste into the rotation.

Instead, the Irish used a couple 10-0 runs during the first half to suffocate the Bears 84-57 in a game off the radar for reasons behind the Heisman Trophy. The Irish players watched Johnny Manziel edge out Manti Te’o from the team longue during postgame interviews.

Brown fell between the Kentucky romp and next Saturday’s date with Purdue in Indianapolis, never mind coming at the end of the fall semester.

Cam Biedscheid led Notre Dame in scoring for the first time with a career-high 17 points as Mike Brey tinkered with his rotation minus Sherman. Auguste got the first call but Knight answered it best. The senior logged 16 minutes and scored his first four points of the season, potentially bumping Sherman down a rung in the rotation.

Jack Cooley posted his fourth-straight double-double and seventh of the year with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Eric Atkins finished with a career-high 12 assists to go with 10 points.

“How about Eric Atkins for the Heisman?” Brey joked. “Great win. I’m really pleased.”

That sentiment found Knight most, Brey suggesting the senior would replace Sherman as the seventh man moving forward. When pressed if he actually meant eighth man and misspoke, Brey clarified.

“Seventh,” he said. “He’s been good in practice. He’s a veteran guy. I’m just really thrilled with what he’s given. It’s funny how opportunities present themselves when guys get injured.”

Brey said Sherman would be healthy for Purdue. His players focused more on Knight.

“It was a little different but I think Tom came in and played huge,” said Scott Martin,  who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. “Tom plays like that every day in practice. He gives it 100 percent. He’s out there battling. It’s great to see all that hard work pay off for him tonight.”

Regardless of the budding competition between Knight and Sherman moving forward, there’s no question about Notre Dame’s sixth man in Biedscheid. The freshman played through the flu on Saturday night.

He’s scored in double figures in three of the last four games.

“My stomach was real upset, my head was hurting, I didn’t have any energy,” Biedscheid said. “I was in bed for a couple days, missed a couple practices.”

Biedscheid and Knight, along with the rest of the roster, flourished with Atkins running the point. Even fighting off a cough after the game, the point guard was nearly flawless. He scored half the points in Notre Dame’s first 10-0 run that installed a working margin into the game. He did not commit a turnover.

During Atkins’ last four games, the junior has 33 assists against just one turnover.

“I honestly just wanted to be more aggressive this year,” Atkins said. “I know being more aggressive, turnovers come with it. But it’s actually turned out I’ve been getting more assists and less turnovers.”


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