Despite a career shooting performance from Cardinal Stritch's Jeremy D'Amico, the No. 22/23 Notre Dame men's basketball team rallied past the visiting Wolves, 70-56, to wrap up exhibition play Friday night at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
D'Amico, who averaged just 3.5 points in 2011-12, poured in 26 points on 9-of-9 shooting, including a remarkable 8-for-8 effort from behind the three-point arc. The senior knocked down five of his eight three-pointers in the opening stanza to help Cardinal Stritch take a two-point lead (34-32) late in the first half, but the Irish controlled the second half by a 36-22 margin to earn the hard-fought exhibition victory.
Senior forward and pre-season all-BIG EAST first-team pick Jack Cooley led the Irish with a double-double on 15 points and 10 rebounds, while junior guard Eric Atkins also contributed a 15-point effort while dishing out four assists. Junior guard Jerian Grant added nine points for Notre Dame and distributed a game-high seven assists in 33 minutes of action.
The Irish knocked down 52.4 percent (22-42) of their shots on the night and made eight of 15 attempts (.533) from beyond the arc. Notre Dame held a 25-4 advantage in free throw attempts for the game and converted 18 of them (.720) to gain a +17 advantage from the line. The Irish also out-scored the Wolves in the paint, 26-14, and turned 17 Cardinal Stritch turnovers into 17 points.
The Wolves converted 13-of-22 (.591) field goal attempts in the first half, but Notre Dame stepped up its defensive effort in the final 20 minutes to limit the visitors to a 34.6 percent mark (9-26) in the second half.
After Atkins opened the contest with five straight points, the Wolves notched eight of the next 10 and took the lead at 8-7 on a three-pointer by sophomore Chad Mazur. Notre Dame moved back in front by four points (15-11) on a fast-break dunk from freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid, but Cardinal Stritch continued to keep the game close with the help of some hot shooting. The Wolves connected on five of their first seven three-pointers (.714), including a triple from D'Amico that knotted the game at 19 with 10:29 to play in the first half.
A three-pointer by sophomore guard Pat Connaughton moved the Irish back in front, 26-23, and a second-effort lay-in by Cooley pushed the advantage to five at 32-27. But the Wolves continued to stroke it from deep, as junior Derek Semenas connected on the team's seventh three-pointer of the half to move Cardinal Stritch back within two (32-30) with 2:31 to go. The Hawks tied it up on a long jumper from Mazur, and another pull-up jumper from junior Mike Simpson gave the visitors their first lead (34-32) since the 13:46 mark. With five seconds remaining in the half, Notre Dame senior center Garrick Sherman stopped the run by laying in a second-chance opportunity to tie the score at 34 heading to the break.
D'Amico hit all five of his three-pointers to lead the Wolves with 15 first-half points, while Atkins notched 10 points on four-of-four shooting to pace Notre Dame at halftime.
The Irish opened the second half with a purpose, as three-pointers by Atkins and Grant and a strong finish by Cooley made up an 8-0 run that propelled Notre Dame to a 42-34 lead and forced an early Cardinal Stritch timeout. Another three, this time from graduate guard Scott Martin, extended the Irish advantage to 11 at 47-38, but the Wolves moved back within five (49-44) on the seventh three-pointer of the night from D'Amico with 11:44 to go.
At that point, the Irish put together a 13-0 run over the next 4:41 to take a 60-44 lead and effectively put the game out of reach for the Wolves. The surge featured two electric moves from Biedscheid, including a stutter-step finish on the break and an alley-oop dunk off a stellar feed from Atkins.
The Wolves could not get closer than 11 (64-53) for the remainder of the contest, and a three-pointer by Biedscheid gave the Irish their largest lead of the game at 17 with 1:15 left in the game. Biedscheid provided a spark off the bench for the Irish all night long and contributed 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 19 minutes.
Notre Dame opens its 2012-13 regular-season schedule Nov. 10 against intrastate foe Evansville inside Purcell Pavilion. The time of the contest has not been determined.