Tag: Eric Atkins

Eric Atkins, Quinn Cook

Eric Atkins, Notre Dame beat No. 7 Duke, turn around their season?

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For the first time in 19 games against former assistant coaches, Mike Krzyzewski has been beaten.

And while it isn’t necessarily a surprise that it was Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey that did it, it is a surprise that it happened this season.

The Fighting Irish were dealt a bad hand last month when it was announced that leading scorer Jerian Grant would be leaving school for the second semester due to an academic issue. That left a Notre Dame team that had been struggling with Grant in the lineup shorthanded, and the fact that they were taken to overtime by Canisius in their first game in the post-Jerian era was not exactly promising.

But if there is anything that Brey has proven that he’s capable of doing, it’s overcoming adversity on his roster. And on Saturday, his Irish used a late 20-4 run to turn a 60-50 deficit into a 70-64 lead in their 79-77 win over the Blue Devils.

Eric Atkins led the way for the Irish, finishing with 19 points and 11 assists while completely dominating the game on the offensive end of the floor. There really isn’t any other way to put it. He’s averaging 24.5 points and 9.0 assists in the two games without Grant.

He’s not alone, however. Pat Connaughton finished with 16 points — including a pair of momentum-changing dunks late in the second half — while Garrick Sherman chipped in with 14 points and eight boards, helping the Irish to control the paint against the smaller Blue Devils. Austin Burgett (five boards, five blocks) provided energy off the bench while Steve Vasturia (3-for-5 from three) came in and helped stretch the floor.

Put it all together, and what you get is Notre Dame’s biggest win of the season.

By far.

Remember, this is a team that lost to Indiana State and North Dakota State at home, that choked away an eight point lead in 51 seconds against Ohio State at the Garden. This is a team that had been written off as a contender in the ACC before the lost Grant for the year. But the Irish made a statement on Saturday afternoon. They’re not going to roll over and die just because a couple of pundits said they would.

This isn’t the first time that Brey has had to manufacture a turnaround. Remember when Luke Harangody injured his knee in 2010 and the Irish were forced to turn to the ‘Burn Offense’? That turned their season around, and they won their last six regular season games before making the NCAA tournament. Or what about in 2012, when Tim Abromaitis tore his ACL and the Irish still managed to win 13 Big East games?

Are the Irish really back?

Is this group actually going to be able to win against the best in the ACC once teams have a chance to scout and game-plan what they do without Grant?

Who knows.

But the bottom-line is that writing off the Irish — writing off Mike Brey — is never a good idea.

College Hoops Week in Review: Eric Atkins, Kentucky come through in big moments

Andrew Harrison
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Eric Atkins, Notre Dame

For Notre Dame, the last week as been about as rough as a week can be on a college basketball team. Let’s start with the obvious: leading scorer Jerian Grant, a redshirt senior that had been in the program for four years, left school for the second semester after dealing with an academic issue. That came a day after the Irish collapsed against No. 3 Ohio State, blowing an eight point lead in 51 seconds and missing out on a chance to land a marquee victory that would have helped nullify home losses to Indiana State and North Dakota State.

In their first game since their season changed, the Irish came out flat, missing 12 of their first 14 shots and digging themselves a big first half hole against a better-than-you-think Canisius team looking to land a big road win of their own. That’s when Eric Atkins took over, popping off for a career-high 30 points and leading the Irish to an overtime win that they simply had to get for their confidence and to protect a chance at earning themselves an at-large bid. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that a loss would have been a crushing blow for the Irish. But a win, especially a win where their senior point guard went into takeover mode, is a step in the right direction.

They were good, too:

  • Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Ennis finished with 20 points, a pair of assists and, once again, without a turnover as the Orange overcame a 25-7 deficit in a 16 point win against then-undefeated Villanova.
  • Deandre Kane, Iowa State: Kane averaged 17.0 points, 7.7 boards and 5.0 assists in their Diamond Head Classic title. More importantly, Kane, who entered the title game against Boise State 5-for-20 from three on the season, went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
  • Antoine Mason, Niagara: The nation’s leading scorer had a season-high 39 points in a 68-65 win over Brown.
  • Matt Stainbrook, Xavier: Stainbrook had 21 points and 10 boards in a win over Wake Forest in the Skip Prosser Classic. That came after going for 17 points and six boards in a win at Alabama.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kentucky Wildcats

source:  What is there to say about this Kentucky team that hasn’t already been said in the two days since they knocked off then-No. 6 Louisville in Rupp Arena, 73-66? Julius Randle was as dominant as could be in the first half, but when he went out with cramps in the second half, the Wildcats continued to control the game. The Harrison twins — specifically Andrew, the point guard — were terrific down the stretch. Alex Poythress made some of the hustle plays that Big Blue Nation has been waiting for him to make for a season and a half. And, most importantly, the Wildcats put together arguably the best 40 minutes of defense that they have put together this season.

Kentucky needed this. I don’t subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as a must-win game in December, because this was a must-win game for the Wildcats. It has nothing to do with their resume or their NCAA tournament chances, rather they had to get this game because the pressure and scrutiny that they would have faced otherwise would have been overpowering. They needed tangible evidence that this wasn’t going to be a repeat of 2012-2013. They needed proof that they are getting better, getting closer to the national title contender that we all believed they wold be back in October. They got it.

They were good, too:

  • Iowa State: The Cyclones continue to roll along without a blemish on their record. This week, they went out to Hawaii and won the Diamond Head Classic.
  • Missouri: The Tiger’s big three of Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross will be tough for opponents to matchup with all season long. On Saturday, they went into Raleigh and knocked off N.C. State in come-from-behind victory.
  • South Carolina: Frank Martin’s group got off to an ugly start this season, but a 3-1 week that included two wins over Akron and a win over St. Mary’s is a step in the right direction.
  • Syracuse: The Orange came from 18 point down to beat then-undefeated Villanova by 16. That’s quite a turnaround.

Eric Atkins comes up big in Notre Dame’s overtime victory over Canisius

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With the announcement that leading scorer Jerian Grant was done for the season for academic reasons, it was clear that Notre Dame needed to figure out how they would account for the 19.0 points and 6.2 assists per game that the senior provided. Given Grant’s impact on both ends of the floor, this is not a situation in which the Fighting Irish simply “replace” him with one of their young bench players.

But in their tough 87-81 overtime victory over Canisius on Sunday afternoon, the way in which Notre Dame will account for that personnel loss was crystal clear.

Eric Atkins, who entered the game shooting just 39.8% from the field, played every second and accounted for a career-high 30 points (10-for-15 FG) and seven assists to lead the way for Notre Dame. He was joined in double figures by forwards Garrick Sherman (17 points, ten rebounds) and Zach Auguste (12 points, eight rebounds), and Notre Dame also received some valuable contributions from their newcomers.

Demetrius Jackson, who will be a key figure moving forward alongside Atkins and Pat Connaughton on the perimeter, V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia all provided valuable minutes against Canisius, with Billy Baron and company giving Notre Dame all it wanted and then some. That freshman trio may have combined for “just” 15 points, but if Notre Dame is to have any shot of getting to the NCAA tournament without Grant they’ll need to chip in.

On Sunday afternoon they did that, and as a result Notre Dame avoided what would have been a third home loss of the season with a game against No. 9 Duke next on the horizon.

But the most important development for Notre Dame moving forward is the play of Atkins, who was aggressive offensively in the team’s first game without Grant. With Grant on the floor Atkins attempted just six shots in Notre Dame’s stunning loss to No. 3 Ohio State last weekend, and it’s obvious that Mike Brey will need his point guard to be even more aggressive now that Grant’s gone.

Notre Dame’s done this before under Brey, with suspensions (Kyle McAlarney) and injuries (Scott Martin, Luke Harangody and Tim Abromaitis) simply resulting in the formation of a “new” team that still found a way to be successful. With those prior successes in mind, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to rule out Notre Dame this season.