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It was back to the classroom for the University of Notre Dame men's basketball team Monday (Aug. 11), turning the pages to another chapter in World History 101 with a 90-minute walking tour of Venice.
One of the world's most popular tourist destinations, Venice is celebrated for its art and architecture. Its beautiful cityscape, uniqueness and rich musical and artistic cultural heritage abound everywhere in a city visited by millions each year. In fact, our tour guide noted that nearly 50,000 tourists visit Venice daily. And today proved no different as the streets and Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), the heart of Venice, were lined with tourists from all over the world.
A little-known fact about Venice pointed out by our tour guide today is that the buildings in the city are constructed on wooden piles that are still intact despite centuries of submersion. The foundations, which rest on the piles where the stone and brick buildings sit above these footings, penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud in the waters until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay. The wood, however, has not decayed as rapidly as it does on the surface because it is submerged in the water in oxygen-deprived conditions. Most of the piles were constructed from alder trees, a wood noted for its water resistance.
"That's been one of the most interesting things I learned today about Venice," said sophomore point guard Demetrius Jackson. "It's hard to believe this city was built on top of trees and that if you turned it upside down, you would find that it sits on piles of wood."
After the tour, the Irish had a short walk from St. Mark's Square where they held a one-hour shoot-around in preparation for Monday night's game. Prior to the practice, head coach Mike Brey stressed the importance of the next two games as a chance for his team to continue to get better.
In what has become a traditional pre-game meal for the squad here in Italy, the Irish feasted on two kinds of pasta and meat before departing for the game. The travel party then boarded four water taxis to a main terminal entrance into Venice where the bus was waiting to take everyone to the game.
A 45-minute drive north of Venice brought Notre Dame to another popular summertime spot, Jesolo. Also a beach town on the Adriatic Sea, Jesolo did not appear to be as posh or crowded as the seaside resort of Pesaro that the Irish had visited over the weekend. The Dalla Riva Parquet Sportivi (site of the game) did, however, prove to be a modern basketball venue.
Nearly 300 fans attended the game and appeared to enjoy the 40 minutes of basketball for their home team, the Opitergium Gladiators, a squad comprised of players between the ages of 19 and 23. Although Notre Dame won 122-67, its largest margin of victory thus far, the Italians cheered loudly for both the home team and for several of the Irish dunks.
Following the game, the team traveled back to Venice by bus and enjoyed another water taxi ride to its hotel. Tuesday (Aug. 12) will be a long day as we depart Venice in the early afternoon and head north to Vicenza, one of the country's wealthiest cities and known for its museums, art galleries and shopping areas.
In the evening, the Irish will play their fourth and final game of the tour when they take on the Vicenza All-Stars. After that, a nearly three-hour bus ride awaits en route to Como, the final stop of the trip. The team will spend three nights in Como and tour one of the world's most beautiful lake regions--Lake Como--for two days on the final leg of its trip.
Notre Dame 122, Opitergium Gladiators 67
August 11, 2014 Dalla Riva Parquet Sportivi (Jesolo, Italy)
Junior Zach Auguste registered his second double-double in as many games, scoring 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, to lead Notre Dame to a 122-67 win over the Opitergium Gladiators. The 55-point margin of victory for the Irish marked the largest of the tour and qualified as the second time in three games Notre Dame topped the 100-point mark.
Senior Pat Connaughton registered double figures for the third straight contest as he finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Freshman Martin Geben had his best outing of the tour as he finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore point guard Demetrius Jackson also had his best performance as he netted 17 points, dished off four assists and made four steals. Also in double figures were sophomore Austin Torres and senior Jerian Grant, as each finished with 11 points to round out the double-figure scorers.
Head coach Mike Brey started Auguste, Connaughton, Jackson, Jerian Grant and Steve Vasturia for the third straight game, but quickly inserted his second unit when the Irish fell behind 8-2 to start the contest. The group off the bench quickly gave Notre Dame the lead, and the Irish cruised from there against a team primarily comprised of guards.
The Gladiators were led in scoring by Andrea Galiazzo (18 points) and Luca Sottana (15 points).
Notre Dame led 33-17 after one period, 59-27 after two and 93-49 following three periods.
Head Coach Mike Brey
"Our second unit really came ready to play tonight and I thought that they gave us great energy. I was pleased with our effort overall and how we didn't give up easy points around the basket. We continue to find our identity as a team on defense. Tonight was not an easy game for us defensively because we had to spend most of the night chasing down five guards who are always trying to shoot the basketball.
"I love how we continue to share the basketball. We're an unselfish group offensively, but I also think that we are really becoming an unselfish group defensively, and that's something that we have worked on all summer and have concentrated on over the past few weeks.
"Martin Geben really had an outstanding game. I talked to him before the game about just relaxing and playing his game. I'm really pleased where he is right now and how well he has played for us the past two games. Matt Farrell has done a good job running the floor for us and I like the way he pushes the ball up the court."
Freshman Martin Geben
"It was a great feeling to be out there and really contributing tonight. I've waited a long time to get out there and play with my teammates competitively and I think I've become more comfortable the last three games. This trip has been a great experience for me, getting more comfortable playing with the other guys on this team at both ends of the floor."
Junior Zach Auguste
"I like where my confidence is right now and I think that I am playing well. My teammates have really helped me out and encouraged me all throughout the summer. I think that has really helped me become more confident. I want to continue to be a presence in the paint for us because I know that it going to be very important for us this season."
--by Bernie Cafarelli, assistant athletics director