Notre Dame, IN (Sports Network) - The 22nd-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish
open up their 2012-13 season at home when they welcome the Evansville Purple
Aces to the Joyce Center this afternoon.
Notre Dame is coming off a 22-12 season a year ago, marking the team's sixth
straight 20-win campaign. In addition, the Irish found themselves in their
third straight NCAA Tournament. With all five starters returning from that
group, Mike Brey hopes the team can take the next step.
Marty Simmons' Purple Eagles had their ups and downs last season, finishing
with an even 16-16 overall mark. The team was picked to finish fifth in the
Missouri Valley Conference prior to the start of the season and finished a
little better, going 9-9 in league play, good for third place. Evansville
enters this season with a nice veteran core, as four of the team's projected
five starters are seniors.
The Irish have dominated the competition at home of late, winning 35 of their
last 36 games (.972) on their own floor. This is the 10th all-time meeting
between these two teams. Notre Dame holds a narrow 5-4 series advantage and is
a perfect 4-0 against Evansville at home.
The Purple Aces have found themselves in the postseason on a regular basis
lately, but the team struggles to extend its season much beyond that. A deep
run in the postseason is certainly possible, especially with the return of
All-MVC First-Team honoree Colt Ryan. The 6-5 senior ranked 11th in the
nation in scoring at 20.2 ppg a year ago and hopes to continue that in
2012-13. Finding help will be the key, but with 11 letterwinners back, that
help may not be hard to find. Fellow seniors Troy Taylor (5.8 ppg), Lewis
Jones (5.3 ppg) and Ned Cox (9.2 ppg) are nice complements to Ryan. Sophomore
forward Ryan Sawvell (6.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg) rounds out the starting five.
The Irish are chock-full of experienced playmakers as well, returning over 88
percent of their scoring from a year ago. The backcourt has plenty of depth
with juniors Eric Atkins (12.1 ppg, 4.1 apg) and Jerian Grant (12.3 ppg, 5.0
apg) both with the ability to score and distribute, while graduate student
Scott Martin (9.5 ppg) provides more scoring along the perimeter. Up front the
team will look to 6-9 senior Jack Cooley to provide the low post muscle.
Cooley averaged a near double-double a year ago (12.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg). He was
picked as a Big East Preseason First-Teamer, while Grant garnered honorable
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