The story of how important senior guard Jerian Grant is to Notre Dame has been told many times over, from the start of the 2013-14 season to his academic separation from the school and during the preseason as he worked towards one last hurrah in South Bend. Wednesday night Grant’s fingerprints were all over Notre Dame’s 79-78 overtime win over No. 19 Michigan State, as he an impact on the action in a variety of ways.
Grant scored 27 points and dished out six assists on the night, factoring into 42 of Notre Dame’s 79 points. Grant’s ability to create offense either at the point or coming off of screens is a dynamic that makes Notre Dame a difficult team to defend. But even with that being the case, he wasn’t the only player to step forward for Mike Brey’s team.
Sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson added 21 points on the night, shooting 7-for-11 from the field. With Pat Connaughton shooting just 3-for-11 and sixth man V.J. Beachem out with a foot injury, Notre Dame needed another option to produce alongside Grant and the former McDonald’s All-American did so.
Jackson’s scored in double figures in seven of Notre Dame’s eight games, but prior to Wednesday night he’d manage to score more than 11 points in two games (UMass and Grambling State). Jackson is capable of reaching the mid-teens in scoring on a consistent basis, thanks in large part to his ability to break defenses down off the dribble. And given the amount of attention that Grant receives from the opposition, Jackson will need to do so consistently if Notre Dame is to return to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season.
By no means was this a “perfect” game for Notre Dame, as they were outclassed on the boards by a Michigan State team that rebounded 50 percent of its missed shots. But the Spartans were unable to punish Notre Dame with second-chance points, and that combined with Notre Dame’s valuing of the basketball (four turnovers) and a plus-15 edge in points from the foul line put the Fighting Irish in a position where they could win the game.
And thanks in large part to Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame picked up a result that will look good on their resume as the season progresses.