Nov. 12, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Eric Atkins scored a career-high 27 points as Notre Dame held off visiting Mississippi Valley State 80-67 in the season opener for both teams on Saturday.
Atkins was 6 for 7 from the floor and 12 for 12 from the free-throw line, and contributed six assists and four rebounds. Scott Martin added 15 points for Notre Dame.
Terrence Joyner and Kevin Burwell led MVSU with 14 points each.
Falando Jones got hot in the second half for MVSU, scoring all of his 13 points. His 3-pointer with 12:33 left got the Delta Devils within 50-48. Notre Dame answered with a 7-0 run, and a Joey Brooks 3-pointer with 7:02 left put the Irish ahead by 10.
Notre Dame captain Tim Abromaitis missed the game, the first of a four-game suspension by the NCAA for playing in the Irish's two preseason exhibition games during his sophomore year in 2008.
He then sat out the rest of that season with the intention of preserving an extra year of eligibility, but according to NCAA rules, only freshmen can play in exhibitions without those games counting toward a player's eligibility for the season.
Notre Dame appealed the decision and received a waiver from the NCAA, but Abromaitis was still suspended for the first four regular season games this year. He won't be able to return to the Irish lineup until Nov. 21 against No. 25 Missouri.
Mississippi Valley State will spend the first two months of the season on the road, with trips to No. 1 North Carolina, eighth-ranked Florida, and No. 15 Wisconsin along the way.
Notre Dame opened the game with a 10-2 run as the Delta Devils hit just one of their first six shots. But behind eight straight points, fueled by three Irish turnovers, Mississippi Valley State took a 16-15 lead with 11:04 left in the first half.
Atkins hit every shot he took in the first half, going 4-for-4 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line, for 16 points. He scored Notre Dame's last eight before halftime, pushing a narrow Irish lead to 10 before an Amos Studivant layup made it 38-30 at the break.
Delta Devils coach Sean Woods was ejected from the game after being assessed two technical fouls while arguing a call. Woods stomped along the sideline and angrily threw his jacket over the MVSU bench.
Atkins hit all four technical free throws and added a layup with 4:37 to play as the Irish scored eight straight after the ejection to go ahead 70-52. Atkins went down hard on the layup and limped off, but returned moments later.
Martin returned to the starting lineup after missing both of Notre Dame's exhibition games with a sprained right ankle, but he was the only returning starter on the floor from last year's Irish squad that was ranked as high as No. 4.