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Notre Dame looking to senior guard Jerian Grant for leadership in 2014-15

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Notre Dame struggled with consistency in its first season as a member of the ACC, going 15-17 overall with a 6-12 record in conference play. As a result 2013-14 was the first season a Mike Brey-coached team finished below .500 since 1996-97, when his Delaware Blue Hens finished the year with a 15-16 record. The biggest reason for Notre Dame’s issues was the absence of senior guard Jerian Grant, who had to leave the school for the spring semester due to what was described as an “academic misstep.”

Through 12 games Grant, who was a second team All-Big East selection as a junior, averaged 19.0 points, 6.2 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game and he was shooting 51.8% from the field and 40.8% from three. A player of that caliber is tough for any team to replace, especially when they have to do so in the middle of a season. Now back with the program, Grant’s expected to be a leader for a group that has just two seniors with Pat Connaughton (13.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.0 apg) being the other.

According to Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune, Grant’s had to step up as a vocal leader with Connaughton playing baseball in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system.

With expected captain-to-be Pat Connaughton playing baseball in the farm system of the Baltimore Orioles, Grant is the lone Irish senior on campus. Despite his absence last winter, Grant had no choice but to embrace the role of the veteran voice of reason.

“I’ve been really impressed with him,” coach Mike Brey said in a radio interview earlier this week on WSBT’s Weekday Sportsbeat. “He’s come back a more mature guy, more equipped to have a great senior year. Probably learned some lessons and has grown up.”

In the article it’s also noted that Brey believes his senior guard to be a better leader now than he was prior to his leaving the program. And given Notre Dame’s youth, with its most productive returnees outside of Connaughton being junior forward Zach Auguste (6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson (6.0, 2.1), Grant’s ability to lead will be critical as the Fighting Irish look to climb up the ACC standings.

Being productive from a statistical standpoint is fine, but the intangibles are just as important for a player who will be featured as prominently as Grant.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)