Jackson, Grant lead Notre Dame past UMass 81-68
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) Notre Dame coach Mike Brey had prepared his team for any form of adversity Saturday against Massachusetts. He didn't expect the situation to develop so quickly, but when the Irish found themselves down 10 points midway into the first half, there was no panic.
That's where senior leadership comes into play.
''Coach told us before the game that the whole game is not going to go our way,'' senior guard Jerian Grant said. ''When we get down or things aren't going right, just make sure we stay poised and that's what we did. We knew we were going to get back in it. Our defense is good, we just had to get our offense going.''
Grant and Demetrius Jackson combined to make 15 of 19 field goal attempts and Notre Dame remained unbeaten with an 81-68 victory Saturday over Massachusetts in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Grant, a senior guard from Bowie, Maryland, led the Irish (4-0) with 24 points on 10 of 13 shooting. He also had eight assists and two steals. Jackson was 5-for-6 from the field and finished with 16 points.
Jackson led Notre Dame's 13-steal effort on defense. The sophomore guard from Mishawaka, Indiana, had three of his five steals in the first half.
''That's a great win for us,'' Brey said. ''To come and play a team that played in the NCAA tournament last year, a very confident program, and kind of beat them on the road, I think it's a real area of growth for us. I thought we calmed down after the first 10 minutes. Their pressure bothered us.''
Guard Derrick Gordon led UMass (3-1) with 18 points. Center Cady Lalanne scored 16 but picked up his fourth foul as the Minutemen were trying to rally in the second half.
The Minutemen finished with 18 turnovers and Notre Dame converted those miscues into 23 points. UMass jumped out to a 19-9 lead with 10:33 remaining in the first half, but the Irish clearly held the momentum at halftime.
''Eighteen turnovers is probably what cost us the game,'' UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. ''That and Grant on the offensive end. I thought we had quite a few opportunities to poke back into the game or break some things open and we turned the ball over. Sloppy play.''
UMass pulled within seven points twice in the final four minutes, but a basket in the lane by Zach Auguste (11 points) increased Notre Dame's lead to 70-61 and a 3-pointer by Pat Connaughton (18 points) with 2:32 left made it 73-63.
Connaughton was 7-for-12 from the field and hit 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
''That was maybe `the shot' and he's done that a lot throughout his career,'' Brey said of Connaughton. And the guy (Grant) who threw it to him has found him in that situation. It was interesting to watch my two seniors play off of each other when game pressure was starting to build on us.''
Notre Dame: Three members of the Irish celebrated a New England homecoming playing at Mohegan Sun Arena. Pat Connaughton (Arlington), Zach Auguste (Marlborough) and Bonzie Colson (New Bedford) are all from Massachusetts. Ironically, UMass has just two players on its roster from Massachusetts (reserves Mike Wojewodzic and Zach Turcotte).
UMass: With the Minutemen playing again Sunday in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off and Wednesday against Northeastern, UMass will complete a stretch of six games in 13 days to start the season.
Brey was pleased the play of Auguste, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes. ''Zach really calmed down after the start,'' Brey said. ''For him to go double-double, in the second half, he really rebounded for us. I thought Zach kept it simple.''
Notre Dame vs. Providence in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Sunday
UMass vs. Florida State in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Sunday