Whatever the Irish ate over Thanksgiving, keep feeding it to them.
Thanks to strong performances from beyond the 3-point arc, Notre Dame (6-1) rolled to big wins over Grambling State and Chicago State over the holiday. The Irish tamed the Tigers (1-4), 81-54, Wednesday and then followed that with a 90-42 steamrolling of the Cougars (2-6) on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.
Combined, the Irish went 26-of-52 from behind the 3-point line, draining 12 3-pointers against Grambling State and another 14 against Chicago State.
Sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson led the way for the Irish against Grambling State, pouring in four 3-pointers and leading the team with 17 points. Senior guard Jerian Grant (13), junior forward Zach Auguste (12), and senior guard/forward Pat Connaughton (10) joined Jackson in double-figures.
“It was good to see Demetrius Jackson rise up and shoot his 3-point shot and not overanalyze it. With him and Jerian, when the ball reverses to you and you have a clean look, we want you to shoot it.”
Against Grambling State, Notre Dame again had a battle on its hands for rebounds. While the Irish finished with a 30-29 edge overall, the Tigers brought down 11 offensive rebounds, led by five offensive boards from 6-foot-7 junior forward Mark Grey. Brey has said on more than one occasion that rebounding would be a key for success this season.
The Irish showed improvement in that area Saturday against Chicago State. Notre Dame finished with a 39-26 advantage on the boards, as well as a 9-8 advantage on the offensive glass. Auguste led the team with eight rebounds, while Connaughton and Jackson each chipped in another five.
Grant tied his career high for points in the win over the Cougars, dropping 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. This included six 3-pointers, a new personal best for the senior. He also chipped in a team-high five assists.
“[Grant] is a scary talent,” Brey told reporters Saturday. “I feel like I'm coaching a pro because he is a pro. He prepares like a pro. … He's the type of guy that tries to get guys involved first, and we do have some guys that can score. I'm ok with that. But if we stall, and we will, then we start to run some stuff for him.”
“I love that [Beachum] is scoring,” Brey said. “That scoring really helps us. He's shooting it so confidently. … He still needs to improve defensively, and we work with him every day on that. But he can rebound for us. The ability to have another shot-maker out there that stretches the defense gives us another weapon.”
Grambling State first-year assistant coach Ray Martin made a return trip to South Bend. Martin played for Notre Dame under Digger Phelps from 1973-1977 as the team’s point guard and served as team captain his senior year. Martin was part of the Irish squad that stopped UCLA’s record 88-game win streak before he moved on and eventually coached under Jim Valvano from 1980-1988 at North Carolina State where he won a national championship with the team in 1983.
“There are a lot of young people in the college game, through his different coaching stops, that have really benefited from his relationship,” Brey said of Martin on Wednesday. “He's one of the good guys in the business; he's a class act. … It was really neat there at the end — I grabbed him to get in the Alma Mater and he said, 'I watch on the football Saturdays, and at the end of your games, I get a little emotional every time the Alma Mater plays.’”
The Irish return to the Purcell Pavilion floor Wednesday night at 7:15 p.m. when they host No. 19 Michigan State during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.