Nov. 1, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The No. 21/22 Notre Dame men's basketball team never trailed en route to a 93-44 exhibition victory over Tusculum College Friday night inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Tonight was the second and final exhibition contest for the Irish, who open regular-season play next Friday at home against Miami (Ohio).
A Tom Knight jumper 23 seconds into the contest set the tone for the fifth-year senior and the rest of the Fighting Irish squad. The forward, who missed Monday's 95-69 exhibition win over the University of Indianapolis due to back spasms, was 7-of-9 from the field and finished with 14 points.
Knight was one of five Notre Dame players in double-figures. Senior point guard Eric Atkins netted a game-high 21 points, while junior Pat Connaughton joined Knight with 14 to go along with eight rebounds. Senior center Garrick Sherman scored 12 points and pulled down a game-high 13 boards. Freshman guard Demetrius Jackson had 10 points.
Notre Dame shot 34-of-63 (.540) from the field, including 8-of-19 (.421) from beyond the arc. The Irish had 24 assists on their 34 field goals. The Fighting Irish defense held the Pioneers to just 23.9-percent (16-67) shooting from the floor.
An early spurt from Tusculum knotted the contest at five apiece, but the Irish responded with an 8-0 run. After the Pioneers trimmed the deficit to six (17-11), Notre Dame went on an 11-0 surge that was capped off by a Connaughton three-pointer that made it 28-11 with 9:41 left in the first half.
Another trey from Connaughton put the Irish up by 21 (37-16) with 2:30 remaining in the opening period. Atkins, who was 9-of-11 from the field, then rattled off 10 straight points on two three-pointers and two lay-ups to give the Irish a 47-18 halftime lead.
"It was great to have Tom [Knight] back out there," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "Tom got us started. He's done that before for us. He's an active body. I like having those two big bodies out there (Knight and Garrick Sherman). They can pound away and they can screen. The thing is, both of them can score. Both Sherman and him can score and right now they're passing it so well too."
Sherman opened the second half with four consecutive points and Knight followed with a breakaway dunk to push the lead to 35 (53-18). The Pioneers halted the spurt on a jumper from Neal Spinks, who paced Tusculum with 13 points.
An Atkins trey less than six minutes into the second half upped the Irish advantage to 42 (65-23). Jackson followed with a three-pointer of his own to make it a 9-0 run for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame went ahead by 47 (89-42) with just under three minutes remaining when Atkins converted a breakaway layup off a pass from freshman Steve Vasturia. The largest lead for the Irish (51 points) came off a dunk from Jackson that made it 93-42 with under a minute left on the clock.
"I think we have great team chemistry," Atkins said. "We're moving the ball, getting everyone involved, and taking shots when they're open, so that's a good sign early.
"These two (exhibition) games were fun, but I think we're ready for the real thing."
Next Friday's season opener against the Redhawks is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) inside Purcell Pavilion.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director