Miami lets second-half lead evaporate in road loss to Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — When No. 12 Notre Dame went small on Saturday, Jerian Grant came up big.
Down 12 points early the second half to Miami, the Irish came back by going to a five-guard lineup down the stretch, and Grant took advantage of the extra space on the floor. He finished with 23 points and eight assists to help the Irish upend the Hurricanes 75-70.
After making just two of their first 16 3-point tries, the Irish hit seven of their next nine. Grant’s 3 broke a tie with 6:19 left, and he made a layup and blocked a shot in the last minute.
"Having five shooters out there, I knew we would get the looks we wanted," Grant said. "I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a slump, so to have a game like this is big for me going forward."
It’s not a personnel grouping the Irish use often or even practice much. But against a guard-heavy Hurricanes team that also went small, it became a necessity.
"It was as much a defensive move," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "You don’t play post defense against Miami."
The perimeter job the Irish defense did on guard Angel Rodriguez was key. Coming off a 24-point performance in an upset of No. 4 Duke on Tuesday, Rodriguez shot just 1 of 10 and finished with four points, thanks mostly to the efforts of Irish guard Demetrius Jackson.
Jackson added 10 points and five rebounds.
"Rodriguez has given a lot of people the blues," Brey said. "He never got going, and I give Demetrius a lot of credit for that."
V.J. Beachem added 13 points off the bench for Notre Dame (17-2, 5-1 ACC), which matched the 1978-79 team for the program’s best start through 19 games.
Sheldon McClellan scored 17 points and freshman Ja’Quan Newton had a season-high 16 for Miami (12-5, 2-2). The Hurricanes led 43-31 with under 15 minutes remaining.
Irish forward Zach Auguste, who missed Wednesday’s win at Georgia Tech because of an academic issue, scored four points in nine minutes. He didn’t start, and began the day as the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game.
Notre Dame went on a 9-0 run halfway through the second half to get the game close, and took its first lead on Steve Vasturia’s one-handed floater in the lane with 9:31 to play.
That was after Miami opened the second half with a 13-2 run to take its largest lead, helped when the Irish missed their first six shots of the half.
Notre Dame them made four straight 3-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor. Beachem hit a pair and Pat Connaughton’s triple with 12:44 to play cut Miami’s lead to five.
"They hit that hot streak where Beachem made a couple 3s and then everybody was making 3s," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "We tried to disrupt it and we just couldn’t."
Miami started off the game strong as well. James Palmer’s 3-pointer gave the Hurricanes a 20-12 lead.
Despite a slow start from 3-point range, the Irish closed to 30-29 at halftime.
"We had a feeling it would come eventually," Beachem said. "I like that lineup."
Brey said while he may have been getting nervous, the Irish shooters never panicked.
"They play for a heck of a coach, baby, because they’re not looking over their shoulder," Brey said. "I’m a firm believer in the law of averages."
Miami: Notre Dame was the third top 15 team the Hurricanes have faced in January, starting with a double-overtime loss to Virginia on Jan. 3, followed by a 16-point win at Duke four days ago.
Notre Dame: All-time leading rebounder Tom Hawkins was inducted into the Irish Ring of Honor at halftime. Hawkins (1956-59), who had 1,318 career boards, was in the hospital the day before due to dehydration, but was able to attend the ceremony and address the crowd. … Freshman Bonzie Colson, who had a season-high 10 points in 22 minutes against Georgia Tech, earned his first career start in place of Auguste. Colson had four points.
Miami hosts North Carolina State on Thursday.
Notre Dame travels to Virginia Tech on Thursday.