Indiana St.-Notre Dame Preview
Notre Dame's conference schedule is still seven weeks away, but Mike Brey believes his team is about to get a taste of what to expect in the ACC.
The 21st-ranked Fighting Irish host Indiana State on Sunday in what Brey believes could be a tough challenge.
After being tested in a 74-62 win over Miami of Ohio in its season opener, Notre Dame (2-0) had little trouble against Stetson last Sunday, cruising to an 80-49 win. The Irish jumped out to a 17-3 lead, and ended up shooting 56.1 percent, made 9 of 17 3-pointers and limited the Hatters to 32.1 percent shooting.
''We were so efficient in the first half,'' Brey said. ''We were solid defensively, keeping them to one-and-done. That's how we play. That's our program.''
It could be tough, however, for Notre Dame to replicate that performance.
Indiana State (1-1) was picked to finish second in the competitive Missouri Valley Conference and returns four starters from last season's NIT team. The Sycamores, who knocked off ACC member Miami, No. 16 Creighton and eventual Final Four participant Wichita State in 2012-13, are led by MVC preseason team selection Jake Odum.
"This for us is like an ACC game," Brey told the Irish's official website. "They're a talented older group who knows how to play together. This is going to be a good test for us. I've talked to our guys all week about their mental preparation for this contest. Despite the kind of quirk in the schedule (with having a week off), we were able to bring in referees and scrimmage on Wednesday, I think that was really beneficial for us."
Getting Garrick Sherman back on track should also help Notre Dame.
Expected to take on a bigger role this season, Sherman struggled mightily against the RedHawks, finishing with three points on 1-of-7 shooting and four rebounds before fouling out. The senior forward bounced back, going 7 of 11 for 15 points with nine boards against Stetson.
"I think that's one of the things about being a senior, is that you realize how long the season is," he said. "It's only one game, and whether you have that game in the beginning or the middle of the season it happens."
Guard Jerian Grant also had 15 points after scoring 26 and making 5 of 8 3-pointers in the opener for Notre Dame, which is 48-0 at home in November under Brey.
Senior point guard Eric Atkins finished with eight points last Sunday, leaving him five short of becoming the 54th player in school history with 1,000 for his career.
Indiana State is likely eager to return to the court after blowing a 16-point halftime lead in Thursday's 96-95 loss at Belmont. The Sycamores, who yielded an average of 65.6 points last season, allowed the Bruins to shoot 65.6 percent and score 63 points after the break.
The dismal defensive showing wasted stellar outings from Odum and sophomore Khristian Smith. Odum finished with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists while Smith had a career-high 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting - including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Both Indiana State and Notre Dame are off to outstanding offensive starts. The Irish are shooting 53.2 percent while making 19 of 38 3-pointers and the Sycamores are connecting on 52.7 percent of their shots and have made 18 of 38 of their 3s.
Notre Dame defeated Indiana State 81-72 in 2010 to improve to 2-0 in the all-time series.