SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It wasn't your typical pre-conference schedule blowout, and Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said he was happy about that.
No. 21 Notre Dame, powered by a career-high 26 points from Jerian Grant, beat Miami of Ohio 74-62 on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.Notre Dame led by as many as 16 points three different times in the game, but also saw its lead cut to just 8 with 6:20 left. Miami's tight man-to-man defense and hustle for rebounds and loose balls kept the game competitive throughout."It was good for us, because it was a hard game," Brey said."The way it starts out, you think it's going to be maybe like the exhibition games. And they make a run, which is what college basketball is all about, and you can't really get away from them."Notre Dame, running a perimeter-focused offense, was outrebounded 30-27 by Miami. But the visitors managed just 44 percent shooting from the field, including 27 percent from 3-point range.Noting the shooting range of Miami's 6-foot-7 freshman Jaryd Eustace and 6-10 Michigan graduate transfer Blake McLimans, Brey opted to play four guards for much of the game.Point guard Eric Atkins grabbed five rebounds, second only to Pat Connaughton's seven boards on the team."Those three perimeter guys have been through so many battles, they keep us poised," Brey said of Grant, Atkins and Connaughton. "There was never any panic, and that's what you liked. I didn't really want to call any timeouts. I wanted us to just kind of play through that."Notre Dame jumped out to a big lead early, going up 21-6 midway through the first half on a baseline jumper by sophomore forward Zach Auguste.Sophomore guard Reggie Johnson led the Redhawks with 22 points. His jumper with 3:39 left in the first half closed the Irish lead to 32-27. After Notre Dame regained some momentum, Johnson's 3 with 36 seconds left in the half cut the lead back down to 39-32.Grant's production included 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.Miami started the second half with a step-back 3 by Eustace, trimming the lead to five. Notre Dame made adjustments at the half to start keying on Johnson, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half.While Grant quieted down a bit in the second half, he made big plays when they needed them down the stretch, including a jumper with 6 minutes left that extended the Irish lead to 61-51.Following Grant in scoring for Notre Dame was forward Tom Knight with 13 points and Connaughton with 11.Grant, voted to the pre-season All-ACC team, stretched the Irish lead to 16 with 4:09 to play when he was fouled on a fastbreak layup and converted the three-point play."It was good," Grant said of his game. "Once those first two go in, we got guys on our team that are going to find the hot hand. I was hot today, and Eric and Pat were finding me and when I started making those first two, there was no hesitation on the next ones."