Eagles Can’t Overcome Irish After Late Push

With six and a half minutes left in the first half, Jerian Grant stepped back deep behind the 3-point line and let a shot fly.

It bounced off the front of the rim, onto the backboard, down off the rim again, and into the net. The University of Notre Dame took a 23-point lead on that shot.

On the other end, Aaron Brown drove the baseline valiantly and threw up a desperate layup that kissed the glass and laid on the front of the rim—for what seemed like an eternity—ultimately rolling off into the waiting hands of Irish center Zach Auguste.

It was just that kind of day for the Eagles (9-12 overall, 1-8 ACC) and the Fighting Irish (21-3, 9-2). Notre Dame got some beneficial bounces on its home floor, and BC did not. The Irish rode hot shooting all game en route to a 71-63 win over the Eagles at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.

No. 10 Notre Dame was coming off a last-second loss on the road at the University of Pittsburgh, and it came out of the gate sure to prevent a similar upset from happening on Wednesday night. The Eagles, meanwhile, struggled mightily to get going. Many of their attempts from the field in the first half were 3-pointers, and very few of them fell until the last few minutes.

The Irish, led by star point guard Jerian Grant and his 17 points, shot over 50 percent from the field in the first half. ND is ranked No. 2 in the country in field goal percentage, so the impressive shooting display was no surprise for the efficient Irish.

Grant did not miss a shot during the first 20 minutes, connecting on all three of his attempts from downtown for nine points. He added five assists and three steals during that half.

The start of the second half fared much better for the Eagles, but more specifically for Dennis Clifford. The big man from Massachusetts added two quick buckets on the interior in the first minute of the half to rebound from a difficult beginning. After finding himself on the outside of the starting lineup for three straight games, Clifford blew defensive assignments and committed lazy turnovers in the opening minutes, showing obvious signs of rust.

For the Irish, Grant’s sidekicks performed almost as well as the star. ND’s Auguste had his way down low throughout the game, finishing with 16 points on seven-of-11 shooting. Auguste bullied the Eagles’ big men in the paint, using brute force and quick feet to dance around BC’s defenders.

Additionally, Irish forward Steve Vasturia came up with clutch shot after clutch shot whenever the Eagles seemed to need a defensive stop. The sophomore scored 17 points, tied for a team-high, on seven-of-nine shooting. He connected on 60 percent of his 3-point opportunities.

Olivier Hanlan led the way in the second for the Eagles, who shot better from long distance but not good enough to chip into the lead. Hanlan’s 28 points and four assists each led the team for the game.

In the last three minutes as Notre Dame started to let off the pedal, the Eagles absolutely caught fire, unable to miss from behind the arc. At one point, with over a minute remaining, the lead was cut to six—but a Vasturia dagger put the lead out of reach for good. The Eagles dug themselves too big a hole to climb out of, though, as the Irish held on for the win.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

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About Tom DeVoto 87 Articles
Tom is the Editor-In-Chief of The Heights Newsletter. He is also the A1 Editor of The Heights. You can follow him on Twitter @TLDeVoto.