SOUTH BEND -- Once sophomore guard Jerian Grant turned Purcell Pavilion
into his personal high-wire showplace, a trip into the school history
books was all but certain for the Notre Dame men's basketball team.
For a good stretch of a dominant second half, where West Virginia
might still be wondering exactly what happened, Grant did anything he
He defended. He hit shots. He dipped deep into his bag of aerial
acrobatics. He scored a game-high 20 points in a relatively
stress-free 71-44 Irish victory.
It was a school-record ninth consecutive Big East win for Notre Dame,
still rolling along 38 days now without a loss. Winners of at least 20
games for a sixth consecutive season, which ties the school record,
the No. 20 Irish improve to 20-8, 12-3 and second place in the league.
It was the most lopsided win in the current cache of wins and the most
lopsided league victory of the year on a night that saw the home team
lead by as many as 27.
"We just got flowing," Grant said. "When our defense gets into a
rhythm and we can get stops, it just helps us be able to run our
And run it with anyone finishing. Scott Martin offered 15 points and
six rebounds. Eric Atkins and Jack Cooley each scored 13. Atkins added
a game-high eight assists. Alex Dragicevich contributed eight points
off the bench.
"It just boosts everyone's confidence," Atkins said of the balance.
"This core, when we all score, it's really hard to guard us. Our
confidence right now just keeps going higher and higher."
Coach Mike Brey has had some talent roll through town during his 12
seasons on the Irish sideline. He's coached an NBA lottery pick (Troy
Murphy). He's coached another NBA first-round selection (Ryan
Humphrey). He's coached the second all-time leading scorer in school
history (Luke Harangody). He's tutored teams that have won a Big East
West Division championship and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament
But no one saw this squad, one that looked so uncertain earlier this
season, as the one that would run off with the school record for
consecutive league wins. At one point in November and December, the
opposite -- nine straight losses -- seemed almost certain.
"It's really special for this group to do it," said Brey, who took
another step toward his fourth league Coach of the Year honor. "They
really wanted that record. It will be a great story in the history of
our basketball program.
"We really went after it."
As each step has been taken, each challenge answered, the Irish have
felt even more confident about their collective selves. Wednesday was
no exception. They again started slowly, but once it got rolling -- and
it started with defensive stops -- there was little anyone in a West
Virginia uniform could do to slow it.
"This is how we want to play every day," Brey said. "This team has
shown a cruelty to go for the jugular. That's what I really love about
All Notre Dame did in the decisive second half was shoot 60 percent
from the floor, 54.5 percent from 3 and limit West Virginia to six
baskets, no 3-pointers and 16 total points. If it wasn't the most
efficient half of basketball this season, it was close. And it was
again directed by the tandem of Atkins and Grant.
"I'm more than happy to let the guards take over in the second half,"
Cooley said. "It makes my life easier."
It reached a point where it became a whole lot silly. Grant
capitalized on a Mountaineer turnover early in the second half with a
He also ran off on a breakaway, two-handed, double-pump dunk. He
missed a baseline drive and another windmill, but he corralled the
rebound, set his feet and had time to order a box of popcorn in front
of the Irish bench before dropping in a 3-pointer to really get the
At one point during a timeout, Grant huddled with his teammates near
the free-throw line to discuss all of his dunks. There was one -- a
Michael Jordan rock-the-cradle offering -- that Atkins wished his
roommate could have dusted off.
"That's his go-to," Atkins said. "I really wanted to see it. I think
he held back a little bit."
How many dunks does Grant have in his repertoire?
"I have a few," he said. "I was thinking I was (going to use them all)."
At another point earlier in the half, Cooley turned to Grant and joked
that enough was enough -- he had to start scoring. Grant scored 15
points in the final 20 minutes. There was a time earlier this year
when Brey talked of Grant not knowing how good he might one day be.
That day may be near after he went for 11 points in the decisive 28-7
"Tonight he was almost starting to figure out how good he is," Brey
said. "He was going for the jugular. He has that in him."
At one point in the first half, the Irish trailed by as many as six as
their early-game struggles continued. But the Irish stayed with the
plan, just as they did Saturday in erasing a 20-point deficit at
Villanova. By the time the night was done, Notre Dame had shot at
least 60 percent in both halves, a stat that sat none too well with
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
"I've never had a team give up 60 percent (shooting) in two halves,"
Huggins lamented afterward. "Ever. We don't guard."
Kevin Jones led the Mountaineers with 15 points, but Martin again made
him work for most of those to the point where he seldom was a factor.
"We," Huggins said, "haven't thrown him the ball when he's open the whole year."
WEST VIRGINIA (44): Kevin Jones 6-12 3-3 15, Deniz Kilicli 4-11 0-0 8,
Jabarie Hinds 1-9 0-0 3, Gary Browne 2-4 0-0 4, Darryl Bryant 3-11 4-6
10, Dominique Rutledge 0-1 2-4 2, Tommie McCune 1-3 0-0 2, Paul
Williamson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 17-54 9-13 44.
NOTRE DAME (71): Jack Cooley 5-7 3-4 13, Eric Atkins 6-11 1-3 13,
Scott Martin 5-7 2-2 15, Jerian Grant 8-11 0-0 20, Pat Connaughton 0-2
0-0 0, Patrick Crowley 0-1 0-0 0, Alex Dragicevich 2-3 2-2 8, Tom
Knight 0-0 0-0 0, Joey Brooks 0-1 0-0 0, Mike Broghammer 1-1 0-0 2.
Totals 27-44 8-11 71.
Halftime -- Notre Dame 30-28. 3-Point Goals -- West Virginia 1-11 (Hinds
1-2, Jones 0-1, Browne 0-1, McCune 0-1, Bryant 0-3, Williamson 0-3),
Notre Dame 9-16 (Grant 4-5, Martin 3-4, Dragicevich 2-3, Brooks 0-1,
Connaughton 0-1, Atkins 0-2). Fouled Out -- None. Rebounds -- West
Virginia 28 (Jones 8), Notre Dame 29 (Cooley, Martin 6). Assists --
West Virginia 11 (Bryant 4), Notre Dame 17 (Atkins 8). Total Fouls --
West Virginia 11, Notre Dame 13. Technical -- Notre Dame Bench. A --
Staff writer Tom Noie: