NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame senior guard Eric Atkins scored five of his team-high 30 points in overtime, highlighted by a key 3-point field goal with 13 seconds left to play in the extra period to help lift the host Fighting Irish to an 87-81 win over Canisius Sunday evening in the Purcell Pavilion in Notre Dame, Ind. The win moves Notre Dame to 9-4 on the year while the Golden Griffins see their record move to 9-5 with the loss.
Canisius senior Billy Baron matched a career-high with his 33-point effort for the Blue and Gold, with 26 of those points coming in the game’s final 25 minutes. Baron also added six rebounds, a career-high six steals and five assists in 43 minutes as Canisius ended the game shooting 44.8 percent from the field, 47.6 percent from 3-point range and 91.7 percent from the free-throw line. Seniors Jordan Heath and Chris Manhertz each posted double-doubles in the loss for the Griffs, with Heath scoring 13 points to go with 11 rebounds for his second double-double this season and the fourth of his career. Manhertz scored 12 points and pulled down a season-high 11 boards for the Griffs for his 10th career double-double effort as the Blue and Gold played its first overtime game of the 2013-14 season.
“This was a battle out there today and I thought our guys were up to the challenge from the start,” Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. “It was a great college basketball game. We played hard and I thought had our chance at the end of regulation to take it. Give Notre Dame credit, they were playing without their leading scorer [Jerian Grant] and the Atkins kid stepped up.”
Notre Dame took a five-point lead with 1:53 left to play in regulation time after Atkins went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line to make the score 73-68 in favor of the Fighting Irish. On Canisius’ next trip down the floor, Baron found Manhertz wide open on the right-hand side of the lane and the Bronx, N.Y., native slammed it home to make the score 73-70 with 1:43 left on the clock. After Notre Dame came up empty on its next possession, Baron knifed through the lane and scored a traditional 3-point play with a lay-up and a made free-throw with 1:02 left in regulation time to knot the game at 73-73.
Notre Dame had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation with a frantic final 30 seconds which saw the Griffs force a turnover, then give the ball right back. Atkins took the ball down the right side of the floor but had it stripped by Canisius senior Chris Perez. As the ball was going out-of-bounds, Baron grabbed the ball and tried to call timeout, but the officials ruled Baron was out-of-bounds himself, resetting the shot clock with 28 ticks left to play. Notre Dame took its final timeout, and out of that timeout, Atkins again tried to get down the right side of the floor, but Perez stripped the senior guard as he rose from the floor to get off a jump shot and the final horn sounded to send the game into overtime.
“The officials told us that Billy had the ball and stepped out-of-bounds,” Jim Baron said after the game. “If he’s out of bounds when he gets the ball, how does he have possession? No one could answer me that. I thought they [Notre Dame] should have had the ball with one second left on the shot clock, but they reset the shot clock giving them [Notre Dame] the last shot. Give our guys credit though, they didn’t hang their heads and they really played defense that last 28 seconds to get us to overtime.”
In overtime, Notre Dame and Canisius traded free-throws before redshirt freshman Phil Valenti scored off a pass from Jordan Heath with 2:57 left in the extra session to knot the game at 77-77. Notre Dame took the lead for good moments later when center Garrick Sherman scored a bucket and a free-throw to push the score to 80-77 with 2:41 left on the clock. Sherman grabbed an offensive rebound, one of his 10 boards on the day, with 1:23 left to play to make it five-point game at 82-77. Canisius rallied one last time, as Baron scored four-straight points for the Griffs in 26 seconds to cut Notre Dame’s cushion to 82-81 with 44 ticks left in OT, but Atkins sealed the game for the home squad with a dagger 3-pointer from the top of the key with 13 seconds left to push Notre Dame’s margin back to four points at 85-81.
Canisius freshman Zach Lewis scored eight points and was credited with two steals in the loss for the Blue and Gold as Canisius ended the contest with a season-high 12 steals. Redshirt sophomore Dominique Raney had six points and two steals as well for Canisius, while Perez had five points and matched a season-high with four assists in a career-high 43 minutes of action. Sherman had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame, which improved to 8-2 at home with the win. The Fighting Irish shot 47 percent from the field, 42.1 percent from 3-point land and 81 percent from the free-throw line in the win, while out rebounding Canisius 44-31 for the contest.
Canisius will continue its three-game road swing next Saturday, Jan. 4, when the team travels to play at Saint Peter’s. Tipoff in the Yanitelli Center is set for 2 p.m.
Game Notes: This was the 24th all-time meeting between these two schools, with Notre Dame leading the series 20-4…. This marked the second time Canisius and Notre Dame played an overtime game, with the other occasion coming Feb. 2, 1957 in Buffalo – a 94-89 double overtime win for the Griffs… Canisius is now 80-43 all-time in overtime games… The Griffs were playing their first game against an ACC school since Dec. 5, 1994, when the team lost to Wake Forest in the Aud… Canisius is now averaging 83.7 points per game in its last three ball games… Baron has now scored 30 or more points in five career contests and he now has 857 points in 47 games as a Griff... Manhertz now has 10-plus rebounds in 22 career games… The Blue and Gold finished its non-conference schedule with a winning record (6-5) for the second-straight season, the first time that has happened since the school joined the MAAC prior to the start of the 1989-90 campaign.
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