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December 29, 2013

Preview: Canisius vs. ND

Untitled Document

Game 13: Canisius (8-4) vs. Notre Dame (8-4)
Date: Dec. 29, 2013
Time: 5:00 p.m. ET
Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic
Nickname: Golden Griffins
Location: Buffalo, N.Y.
2012-13 record: 20-14 (11-7 in MAAC)
Famous alumni: Bob MacKinnon, former NBA head coach and general manager of the New Jersey Nets; Mike Smrek, member of two-time NBA champs (1986-87, 1987-88) Los Angeles Lakers.

Head coach

Jim Baron (2nd year at Canisius) - Baron, 59, spent six years at Notre Dame (1981-87) as an assistant to Richard “Digger” Phelps before landing his first head-coaching job at St. Francis (Pa.), where he spent five seasons (74-71 record). Baron spent nine seasons as head coach at St. Bonaventure (132-131) and 11 at Rhode Island (162-166). The Golden Griffins went 20-14 under Baron in his first season in Buffalo. Now in his 27th season as a head coach, Baron owns a 380-373 career mark.

You should know

That the Notre Dame-Canisius game originally scheduled for 2:00 p.m. ET has been changed to 5:00 p.m. ET…Canisius has played just one of 12 games against a team from a non-mid-major conference, and that was Rutgers with the worst non-conference record (6-7) in the American Athletic Conference. Rutgers defeated Canisius, 66-51…The Golden Griffins enter the Notre Dame game having won five of their last six games…In 2012-13, Canisius made the biggest improvement in school history when it went from five victories the previous season to 20 last year under first-year Golden Griffin head coach Jim Baron…The Golden Griffins attempted 811 three-pointers last season (194 more than Notre Dame), connecting on 313 (.386)…Canisius finished fourth in the 10-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last season and was projected to finish fifth this year by Athlon Sports.

Top losses

Harold Washington (13.8 ppg., .410 3-point shooting - 59-of-144), Isaac Sosa (11.6 ppg., .409 3-point shooting - 95-of-232)

Top players

G-Billy Baron (6-2, 195, Sr.) - The coach’s son is averaging 20.0 points per game after scoring at a 17.2 clip in 2012-13 and 13.0 as a sophomore. Has scored at least 21 points in seven of 12 games. Scored a season-high 31 points against Holy Cross on Dec. 16. Converted 5-of-10 three-pointers (en route to 26 points) versus Georgia State. Had 13 assists against Siena. Has had at least five rebounds in six games. Shooting 41.9 percent from three-point range (31-of-74) and 91.3 percent from the free-throw line (63-of-69).
G-Chris Perez (6-3, 210, Sr.) - Has scored in double digits in seven of 12 games, including three of the last four. Scored 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting (3-of-3 from three-point) versus Georgia State. Grabbed six rebounds against Rutgers. Averaging 11.6 points per game and shooting 50.0 percent (10-of-20) from three-point range.
F-Jordan Heath (6-10, 240, Jr.) - Third on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game and second on the squad in rebounds at 4.8 per contest. Scored 28 points (11-of-17 shooting) and grabbed 10 rebounds versus St. Peter’s. Shooting 57.0 percent from the field, including 48.6 percent (18-of-37) from three-point range. Has 23 of the team’s 40 blocked shots
F-Chris Manhertz (6-6, 235, Sr.) - The Golden Griffins’ leading rebounder at 5.8 per game. Also scoring at a 7.7 clip. Leads the team in offensive rebounds with 33. Scored 10 points with nine rebounds in most recent game (Dec. 21) versus Lamar. Also had nine rebounds against city rival Buffalo.

Inside the Irish

Since the dismissal of Notre Dame’s leading scorer and top assist man - Jerian Grant (19.0 ppg.) - Mike Brey has named fifth-year seniors Garrick Sherman and Tom Knight captains. They join senior Eric Atkins and junior Pat Connaughton…In 12 games, Grant shot .518 from the field, .408 from three-point range and .865 from the free-throw line…Notre Dame ranks sixth in the country in assists per game at 17.9. The Irish also are 54th nationally in scoring at 79.5 ppg., and 59th in field-goal percentage at .476…Some might be surprised to hear that this will be the 24th meeting between Notre Dame and Buffalo-based Canisius. Notre Dame holds a 19-4 edge and has won six straight. The Irish and Golden Griffins first played in 1937. Notre Dame won the first eight games of the series, all in Buffalo. In fact, the first 13 games of the series were played in Buffalo. Notre Dame hasn’t played at Canisius since 1961.

Prister’s Take

A season can’t change over a two-week span much more than it has for the Irish this December. After its second home loss of the pre-conference season -- to North Dakota State -- the Irish traveled to Indianapolis to take on long-time rival Indiana, where Notre Dame never trailed and claimed a seven-point victory over the Hoosiers.

One week later in Madison Square Garden against No. 3-ranked Ohio State, the Irish led by eight points with less than two minutes remaining, only to fall to the Buckeyes by three in devastating fashion. Then came the news of Jerian Grant’s dismissal from the University and Cameron Biedscheid’s anticipated departure from the program.

Now, the Irish have one more non-conference game before its inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference -- beginning with mighty Duke at home on Jan. 4 - to get its new act together. With the team in a state of flux, Mike Brey to has added the captain’s title to fifth-year seniors Garrick Sherman and Tom Knight.

Notre Dame has lost three of its last six and now must pick up the pieces and try to find a sense of rhythm and flow without Grant, who was at the forefront of virtually everything the Irish did offensively. Not only do the Irish lose their top scorer, but also a tremendous distributor of the basketball.

That means freshmen Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem will play larger roles, particularly Jackson, who already was logging extended minutes in recent weeks. Vasturia likely becomes the first guard off the bench and Beachem’s offensive potential will be needed for the Irish to keep up their scoring pace.

Notre Dame’s search for a new identity begins Sunday afternoon in Purcell Pavilion. It will take some time.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 11
Prister’s Prediction: Notre Dame 84, Canisius 67
Prister’s record: 9-3 straight up; 5-4 vs. points

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