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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Men's Basketball: Irish fight past slow start to beat Monmouth

After a sluggish start, No. 20 Notre Dame's bench powered the Irish in the first half and helped the squad pull away from Monmouth, 84-57 on Monday night at Purcell Pavilion.

Irish coach Mike Brey combated the lackluster start by substituting reserves freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid and senior center Garrick Sherman into the lineup. The duo engineered an Irish surge, highlighted by a 21-5 run to seize a 28-12 lead.

"They came in and gave us scoring and we don't let down defensively with Sherman," Brey said. "Sometimes we're even better defensively with him in there."

Sherman scored nine points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first half, surpassed only by sophomore guard Pat Connaughton's 10 points. Biedscheid added five points of his own in the first stanza as the Irish (2-0) carried a 35-23 lead at halftime.

"We did a good job feeding him and he's got the best feel of our big guys to get to spots," Brey said. "It's the first time we've been able to play Cooley and Sherman together at the same time and that's what we envisioned. We saw it in practice, but [Sherman] hadn't done it with a uniform on."

After only topping Evansville by nine points in the season-opener Saturday, Notre Dame's struggles carried over to the early portion of Monday's contest. Monmouth (1-1) stymied the Irish with early pressure and forced three Notre Dame turnovers in the first 2:15 of the first half. It wasn't until graduate student forward Scott Martin's 3-pointer at the 17:05 mark that the Irish first scored.

"We didn't handle [Monmouth's pressure] in the first half with 10 turnovers," Brey said. "I thought we handled it better in the second half."

Notre Dame dominated the boards with 19 first-half rebounds compared to Monmouth's 10. Hawks forward Marcus Ware was the only Monmouth starter 6-foot-8 or taller, and the Irish used their size advantage to control the tempo in the paint.

At 6-foot-10, Sherman's size helped him score 22 points, a career-high for the Michigan State transfer.

His previous best was 10 while playing with the Spartans. He also finished with nine rebounds.

"It was nice to play a little better," said Sherman, who scored three points Saturday. "I wasn't playing to my potential and I owe it to Coach Brey and the team to do that. Tonight I just did what I do.

"I was a little passive in the first game and I tried to be more aggressive and I think that's my role."

Including Sherman, three Irish players finished with double-digit point totals. Senior forward Jack Cooley finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Connaughton totaled 13 points.

In the second half, fouls plagued Monmouth as the Irish cruised to victory. The Irish, however, were not efficient at the free-throw line, finishing 16-of-26 after an 18-of-30 performance Saturday.

The Irish will return to action against Saint Joseph's on Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Brooklyn, N.Y.


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