Scott Martin’s 16 second half points led Notre Dame to a 93-74 victory over Seton Hall in Saturday’s Big East opener at Purcell Pavilion. The first half was close. The second half was an early blowout that allowed the Irish to coast through the last 15 minutes as they protected a big lead.
“I’m proud and pleased how we started Big East play,” said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. “I thought our offensive efficiency was just off the charts, and we defended the arc enough where they couldn’t hurt us too badly.”
Martin finished the game with a game high 22 points. Jack Cooley scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Eric Atkins scored 17 points and had 10 assists. The Irish out-rebounded the Pirates by a 37-32 margin, 21-13 in the second half.
Seton Hall guards Fuquan Edwin and Aaron Cosby led Seton Hall with 21 points apiece. Center Eugene Teague added 17 points and 9 rebounds.
The game started slowly enough with each team probing the other in halfcourt offense. Eric Atkins opened the scoring with a three point basket 1:15 into the game. SHU’s Brandon Mobley answered with a three. Then the Irish started to move the ball. On consecutive possessions, Pat Connaughton fed first Cooley for a layup and three point play and then Atkins for a short jumper to give the Irish an 8-2 lead four minutes into the game.
The Pirates or, more accurately, leading scorer Fuquan Edwin stormed back after the first media timeout. Edwin hit two short jumpers and a three on consecutive possessions to give the Pirates a 10-8 lead at the 14:00 mark. Scott Martin’s three point bucket stopped the run, but SHU had taken the early punch and countered.
The next several minutes featured good offense and suspect defense by both teams as they traded baskets. The Irish managed five point leads twice, but the Pirates had answers until Cameron Biedscheid’s second three point basket of the game extended the lead to 30-23 with 5:28 left in the half. A pair of Jack Cooley offensive rebound baskets matched SHU’s answers, and the Irish extended their lead to ten with 3:39 to play in the half.
The Pirates were not about to surrender. Edwin and Teague made layups to cut the lead to four. Cooley countered with a layup, but Haralds Karlis’ three cut the lead to 37-34 with 1:23 left in the half.
The Irish weren’t about to cave. Biedscheid fed Cooley for a layup, Jerian Grant hit a short jumper, and Atkins nailed a three from the corner on the next three possessions. Teague and Atkins traded layups in the final 15 seconds, and Notre Dame took a 44-36 lead to the locker room.
Atkins led the Irish with 14 first half points and six assists. “In the first half, I had to be aggressive and get into the lane,” said Atkins.
Cooley, en route to his standard double-double, added 12 first half points and 8 rebounds against the bulky Eugene Teague. “I realized that going head to head with brute strength would be wasted energy,” said Cooley. “I needed to find an open space and I know my guards will find me. Eric and Jerian do a phenomenal job of passing to the post. I had to remember that instead of trying to go body-to-body with him.”
Martin’s 6 points were not an indication of what was to come, but he made two of three from beyond the three point arc to tease his second half outburst. As a team, the Irish had 11 assists and only 3 turnovers leading to 53% shooting from the field.
Edwin led Seton Hall with 13 points, and Aaron Cosby had 10. The Pirates held a 19-16 rebounding edge and made 44% of their first half shots.
The game was decided in the first four minutes of the second half. Jerian Grant came out of the locker room attacking the basket, first driving and feeding Scott Martin for a three and then driving for a short jumper of his own that prompted a Seton Hall timeout. Edwin drove for a layup after the timeout, but Pat Connaughton answered with a drive and a dish for another Martin three. Next Cooley made a pair of free throws after being fouled on a put-back. Finally, Connaughton split a pair of free throws, Cooley corralled the rebound on the second try, and Atkins fed Martin for another three. The score was 60-41 with 16:20 to play, and only the score was in question.
Martin finished the game 8-11 from the field, 6-7 from three point distance. “I have to credit my teammates,” said Martin. “They did all the hard work. The found me in the corner, and I just shot it.
“That’s what’s so great about this team. We find the hot hand. Whoever is shooting the ball well or is doing the most damage to the other team will get the ball.
The Irish made 61% of their shots in the second half, 57% for the game. 25 of their 35 baskets were assisted, and they had just 8 turnovers. If their two week layoff had any effect on the offense, it was not apparent; but their defense is a work in progress.
“Our defensive energy wasn’t great in the first half,” said Brey. “Going to zone helped us a little bit because we scored out of it and we got that cushion at least. I thought our energy was better in the second half. You’ll take a win any way you can get it. We’re going to have to be better defensively on Monday to win on the road.”
That road game will be at Cincinnati, and the start time has been moved to 6:30 EST so that it can finish before the football game starts.“
- Mike Brey sang Atkins’ praises after his 17 point, 10 assist, 2 turnover performance, his fourth double-double of the season. “I think I have the best point guard in the Big East,” he said. “And I’ve looked around the country. I wouldn’t trade this guy for any other point guard. The guy is unbelievably efficient and machine-like. The guy is running our team and running our locker room. I’m just so pleased with where he’s at.”
- Cameron Biedscheid played 24 minutes in his first Big East game. “Very solid,” said Brey. Those were big jump shots. He held his own defensively, he rebounded a little bit, and he was good with the ball. He is a focused guy. He loves to play the game, and he wants to be coached. We are much further along than I thought we would be.”
- Pat Connaughton didn’t have gaudy statistics, but he filled his stat line pretty well – 8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and no turnovers.
- The Irish made 12 of 18 three point shots in Saturday’s game.
- The Irish sported gold uniforms for the opener instead of the standard white.
- The Elkhart Central Pep Band and cheerleaders filled in for the Notre Dame squads who are, for some reason or another, in Miami this weekend.
- A healthy crowd in the 7,500 – 8,000 range gave the Irish a good home court advantage. “Our crowd was great,” said Brey. “We didn’t have our students, but the numbers we had in the building helped us. We’re going to need them next Saturday because our students aren’t back then, either.”