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November 2, 2013

Irish double-up Tusculum

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- After sitting out Monday’s exhibition with back spasms, Irish senior forward Tom Knight quickly made up for lost time in Notre Dame’s 93-44 victory over Tusculum (Tenn.) College.

Knight made Notre Dame’s first three field goals, didn’t miss until his eighth shot, and finished with 14 points and five rebounds while showing no residual back issues.

“Our last game, I was a little disappointed. I wanted to be out there with the guys,” Knight said. “Today I got to go out there and started off well, hitting my first couple of baskets. That was fun.”

Three other Irish starters joined Knight in double-digits: Eric Atkins (led all scorers with 21 points), Pat Connaughton (14) and Garrick Sherman (12). Local product/freshman guard Demetrius Jackson also reached double-figures with 10 points.

Atkins completed Notre Dame’s 30-9 run to end the first half with a 10-0 run of his own. With 2:30 remaining in the first half, the senior guard had yet to so much as take a shot. By halftime, two steals sparked Atkins to 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.

“I got angry at myself that I wasn’t being aggressive,” Atkins said of his slow first half. “I didn’t get open in those first 18 minutes. I waited a little bit, and picked a time to strike. It was a good time.”

Sherman scored in a variety of ways, using mid-range jump shots, post moves, fast break opportunities and put-backs to finish 4-of-10 shooting after missing his first three shots. The senior forward added 13 rebounds to notch a double-double. With sophomore forwards Zach Auguste (left hand) and Eric Katenda (right knee) sidelined, the strong post performance from Sherman was both needed and encouraging.

“I was definitely focused on (getting rebounds),” Sherman said. “That’s something I’m going to have to do for our team to be successful. That’s a role that I’m really focused on this year. Got to rebound, got to be consistent at that every game.”

Forward Neal Spinks led Tusculum, a Division II school from the South Atlantic Conference, with 13 points. The Pioneers never led, tying the contest at five before a quick eight-point Irish burst secured the lead for good.

Notre Dame held the Pioneers to 23.5 percent shooting (16-of-68) and just 15.0 percent from beyond the arc (3-of-20). The Irish dominated the paint, out-scoring Tusculum, 44-16. Notre Dame also had 18 fast-break points to Tusculum’s zero.

All 10 available scholarship players scored for the Irish. Senior guard Jerian Grant contributed six points. Freshmen V.J. Beachem, Austin Torres and Steve Vasturia chipped in seven, three and two, respectively, in Notre Dame’s final tune-up game.

Sophomore forward Cam Biedscheid joined Auguste and Katenda on the bench as he considers a red-shirt. If a non-freshman plays in an exhibition game, he forfeits the season of eligibility. On Monday, Irish head coach Mike Brey said he expected a decision on the matter this weekend. Notre Dame will also have a better idea of Auguste’s status this weekend as he is expected to return to practice.

Notre Dame tips off its regular season Friday, Nov. 8 when it hosts Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m.

“We’re ready for the real thing to start,” Atkins said. “We played very well in the last two games, and I think now we’re ready for the real thing.”

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