SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – As hot as Jerian Grant has been offensively of late, his defense was just as key Monday night against Bryant.
Grant hit a late 3-pointer and scored 23 points to help Notre Dame scrap out a win over the Bulldogs, 70-59 in the second round of the Gotham Classic at Purcell Pavilion.
Two days after pumping in 25 and knocking down two late jumpers to hold off Delaware, Grant drilled a 3 from the left corner with 1:28 to play, then blocked a Dyami Starks shot on the other end.
Grant harassed Starks for much of the game on defense, holding the Bulldogs’ leading scorer to just 12 points, 11 under his average (23.4) coming in.
“I thought Jerian Grant, the game that he had guarding Starks, and then doing what he did offensively is fabulous,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.
Grant also had team highs with nine assists and four steals, and played all but two minutes.
“That takes a lot of energy, and a lot of concentration, and he never let (Starks) get going,” Brey said.
Pat Connaughton had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Irish (7-2) and Garrick Sherman chipped in 14 points and 13 boards.
Alex Francis scored 17 points and Joe O’Shea finished with 13 for Bryant (6-4).
With Notre Dame up by 6 with 4:07 to go, Bryant’s Corey Maynard was called for an intentional foul on Demetrius Jackson, but the Irish only managed one free throw out of the sequence.
Maynard then hit a 3-pointer on the other end to cut Notre Dame’s lead to four points.
But as the clock wound down under two minutes, Eric Atkins eventually found Grant in the corner to knock down his only field goal of the second half after five straight misses.
“That was a big shot he hit in front of our bench at the end of (the shot) clock, just like he did Saturday, to make us feel like we can get out of here with a win tonight,” Brey said.
Grant hit all four of his free throws in the final minute to help seal the win, and finished 11 of 13 from the line, but his 3-pointer was Notre Dame’s only one on 10 attempts in the second half.
“I knew I was going to have to make a shot, eventually,” Grant said. “Guys were all getting open looks, so eventually one of them was going to go in.”
Turnovers on three straight possessions early in the second half aided a 7-0 Bryant run that got the Bulldogs within six points, and a Starks 3-pointer with 13:13 got them within five, which they would do three different times in the second half.
That ability to keep it close was a sign for Bryant coach Tim O’Shea that his team, which in its second year of Division I play and managed just two wins only two years ago, is now able to compete.
“I think it demonstrates how far we’ve come in a short period of time,” O’Shea said. “We were competitive. We weren’t over-matched athletically.”
With the outside shots not falling, the Irish worked the ball down low to Sherman on back-to-back offensive trips, and he converted on both to push Notre Dame’s lead back to nine with 6:07 to play.
“Heck of a night for Garrick Sherman, to have his first double-double and score some big buckets for us,” Brey said. “Sherm’s becoming that low post scorer for us.”
Two 3-pointers from Starks bookended a 10-0 Bryant run in the first half that put the Bulldogs up 17-12, 11:39 into the game.
O’Shea hit consecutive 3-pointers to get the Bulldogs back up by 4 with 8:27 left. Notre Dame outscored Bryant 18-2 from that point to close out the half, including 11 straight, punctuated by Grant’s breakaway slam off a Bryant turnover.
The Irish led by 12 and Grant had 15 points and six assists at the half.