South Bend, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - The 21st-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish shoot for a 2-0 start to the new season as they host the Stetson Hatters in non-conference action this afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.
The Fighting Irish, now members of the ACC, kicked off the campaign on Friday with a 74-62 victory over visiting Miami-Ohio. With the decision, Notre Dame moved ahead of the RedHawks in the all-time series, 5-4. The school is now 91-18 all-time in season openers, and has been perfect under head coach Mike Brey who is 14-0 in such contests since taking over the program.
Playing at home in the month of November has also been a strength of the Fighting Irish, who are 47-0 in such contests under Brey and have won 50 straight November home dates going back to 1998 when the last setback came against, ironically enough, Miami-Ohio in a 76-65 final.
As for the Hatters, a team which was just 15-16 overall in 2012-13, but 11-7 in Atlantic Sun Conference play, they were pitted against Clemson in their season opener two nights ago and suffered a 71-51 setback at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Irish won the only previous meeting between these two programs back in 1998 by a score of 79-55 at home.
Shooting just 5-of-24 from the floor in the first half against Clemson, the Hatters didn't stand a chance as they eventually suffered the lopsided loss on the road. Stetson shot just 2-of-11 behind the 3-point line in the first half and 6-of-21 out on the perimeter for the entire game, not to mention only 34.7 percent from the floor overall.
Aaron Graham scored a team-best 11 points on just 3-of-9 shooting, followed by Raymone Andrews who also made only three of his nine field goal chances as he finished with 10 points. On a more positive note, Andrews did serve up five of his team's nine assists, but still the Hatters had more turnovers (14) than dishes.
Compared to last season, the Hatters are off to a rough start in terms of their passing, after ranking first in the Atlantic Sun and eighth in the nation with 16.2 assists per outing.
Notre Dame led by as many as 16 points against the RedHawks on three occasions, but also saw that advantage dip down to only eight with just over six minutes remaining in regulation before finally pulling out the double- digit victory. Jerian Grant scored a career-high 26 points, one of four starters in double figures for the Fighting Irish, while shooting not only 9- of-14 from the floor but also 5-of-8 behind the three-point line, not to mention handing out five assists.
Tom Knight pitched in with 13 points, Pat Connaughton had 11 points, a team- best seven rebounds and another five assists, while Eric Atkins contributed 10 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals for a squad that survived despite pulling down just five rebounds at the offensive end of the floor.
The Irish were credited with assists on all but five of their 26 made field goals, a clear indication that the team is picking up where it left off in 2012-13 when it ranked sixth in the nation with 16.8 assists per outing.