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November 22, 2013

Preview: Santa Clara @ Notre Dame

Story With Sidebar

Head coach: Kerry Keating
(7th year at Santa Clara) - Keating, 42, has a 102-103 career record at Santa Clara after opening the 2013-14 season with a 2-1 mark. He led the Broncos to a 26-12 record last season and claimed the College Basketball Invitational post-season tournament, two seasons after winning the CollegeInsider.com tournament (CIT).

You should know
The Broncos finished fourth in the West Coast Conference last season. They concluded the season with a 26-12 record…Athlon Sports projected Santa Clara to finish seventh in the 10-team WCC this season…Notre Dame has played Santa Clara - the alma mater of NBA great Steve Nash - just once before, and that was on New Year's Eve, 1970, when the Irish claimed an 85-83 victory at what was then known as the Athletic & Convocation Center…With the graduation of several frontline players (see Top Losses below), the Broncos are without 6,188 career points, 2,149 rebounds, 705 assists and 492 steals…Dan Coonan, a 1984 Notre Dame graduate, has served as Santa Clara's athletics director since 2004…The Broncos defeated Bethesda University, 84-39, in their season-opener. They followed that with an 89-77 victory over San Jose State before falling on the road at Cal State-Fullerton, 86-73.

Top losses
Kevin Foster (19.3 ppg., 120-of-335 3-pointers), Marc Trasolini (15.4 ppg., 7.4 rpg.), Raymond Cowels (9.4 ppg., 76-of-195 3-pointers, 4.3 rpg.)

Top players
G-Jared Brownridge (6-2, 195, Fr.) - Rookie sensation scored 25 points in his debut and is averaging 20.3 points per game through the first three. Shooting .529 from the field, including .478 (11-of-23) from three-point range. Also converting .875 (14-of-16) from the free-throw line.
G-Brandon Clark (6-0, 170, Jr.) - Has provided the Broncos with a little bit of everything through the first three games, averaging 15.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists. Tossed in 23 points against both San Jose State (11-of-14 FTs) and Cal State-Fullerton, although he was just 7-of-22 from the field against the Titans.
F-Jerry Brown (6-7, 220, Sr.) - Transfer from Fresno State has averaged 11.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games. Scored 13 points off the bench against Bethesda University, followed by a 16-point, 10-rebound performance against San Jose State.

Inside the Irish
Eric Atkins became the 54th player in Notre Dame history Sunday to reach 1,000 points in his career. He reached the milestone at the 5:04 mark of the first half when he converted a three-point play. Atkins - the only three-time captain in Irish history - enters tonight's game against Santa Clara with 1,013 points. He currently is tied with Rob Kurz for 52nd on the all-time list. Next up is Jack Cooley with 1,017 points…Notre Dame is shooting .406 (26-of-64) from three-point range through three games. Leading the way is junior co-captain Pat Connaughton (9-of-16, .563) and senior Jerian Grant (8-of-17, .471). Grant also leads the Irish in free-throw percentage (.842, 16-of-19)…The loss to Indiana State at home Sunday was just the fourth in the last 58 games (.931) and 10th in the last 129 (.923) at Purcell Pavilion.

Brey on Indiana State, Santa Clara
"That three-point line is the great equalizer in this game, and Sunday (against Indiana State) was a great example of where we couldn't control it and we got our backsides beat. I thought we were a step slow challenging three-point shooters. Even early in the game, we didn't carry over from the scouting report as (well) as we've done in the past.

"Santa Clara is scoring the basketball. They're scoring in the 80s. That scares me, and they've got guys that can make shots. So if it's one of those nights, we have to be aware of the arc. Sometimes your help-side defense suffers because you're so aware of the arc. But we're going to have to have attention to detail with shooters. Any team they can score and make shots, it gets interesting.

"Can we rebound on both ends? Can we establish our post? Can we get into a better offensive rhythm? We put a lot of pressure on our defense (against Indiana State) because we could never really get into an offensive rhythm."

Prister's take
The Broncos have lost a ton of firepower since last season, but Mike Brey is still wary of the visiting team's inclination to launch from beyond the arc.

Santa Clara has absorbed a blow with the back injury to senior guard Evan Roquemore, who averaged 12.0 points and 5.2 assists per game last season. But freshman Jared Brownridge has been outstanding while juniors Yannick Atanga (6-8, 225, Jr.) and Robert Garrett (7-0, 260, Jr.) have been dynamic on the backboards in limited playing time.

Brey's teams usually respond to a loss, and last Sunday's 13-point setback at home to Indiana State qualifies as a sub-standard performance. The Irish were out-played in virtually every way imaginable, and not even 14 forced second-half turnovers was enough to overcome the confident Sycamores, who have let too many close games slip through their hands to allow Notre Dame to add to the list.

It was encouraging to see sophomores Zach Auguste (six points, eight rebounds in 17 minutes) and Austin Burgett (three points, four rebounds, four blocks in 19 minutes) perform well, but the Irish will not be a top 25 team without consistent performances/efforts out of fifth-year senior big men Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman. They combined for four points, six rebounds, five turnovers and zero assists in 24 minutes. Look for a bounce-back performance against Santa Clara.

In Santa Clara's road loss to Cal State-Fullerton last Saturday, the Broncos allowed the Titans to shoot 53.8 percent from the field.  The Irish need this kind of shooting performance at home and are due for one after Indiana State held them to just 36.9 percent from the field.

Brownridge, the sharp-shooting freshman, is the only player so far for the Broncos who has been a real threat from beyond the arc. The Irish, generally speaking, have been a good defensive team against three-pointers. It's time for Notre Dame to turn up the defensive pressure and once again find the offensive rhythm that has been a trademark of Brey's offenses, particularly at home, through the years.

A motivated, veteran Irish squad turns up the heat and gets back to their winning ways at Purcell Pavilion.


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