SOUTH BEND - Admittedly nervous the first time they stepped into new roles under the bright lights last week, Notre Dame sophomores Alex Dragicevich and Jerian Grant knew they needed to take a deep breath, relax and just play.
Knowing they're going to get minutes and shots and opportunities to make a difference this season, both responded with solid showings the second time around as Notre Dame closed exhibition play Monday with a 92-70 victory over Division II Stonehill (Mass.) College at Purcell Pavilion.
Able to make his first collegiate start after Mike Brey decided to send a message to junior forward Jack Cooley - let the academic responsibilities slip, and youre coming off the bench - Dragicevich responded with 15 points and three rebounds in 29 minutes. He made all six of his shots, including 3-of-3 from 3.
"You have to get used to playing out there," Dragicevich said. "It was about being confident in my shot and just playing free."
Looking far more comfortable Monday, Grant barely resembled the same kid in the white No. 22 jersey who struggled the previous game. Able to pick and choose his spots to score, and also find guys with the extra pass, Grant finished with 11 points, a team-high nine assists, two rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes.
"The first game, I was really nervous," Grant said. "I hadn't played a meaningful game in such a long time. The second time, I was just out here having fun. Seeing guys open, they just knocked down shots for me.
"It was good."
Notre Dame trailed early by four points but then led by as many as 30 midway through the second half. That cushion arrived when Grant and Dragicevich teamed up in the halfcourt. Probing for a place to go on the left side, Grant surveyed the defense before eyeing Dragicevich, who had drifted to the wing in front of the Irish bench. Sensing his dribble was about to expire, Grant rifled a skip pass to Dragcievich, who confidently drained another 3 for a 73-43 lead. It was a shot Dragicevich certainly would have passed on last year, and maybe even last week.
But on this night, he made it all look easy.
"Once you get the nerves out," Dragicevich said, "it becomes like a practice and youre just out there playing."
Mitchell Amelio led four Skyhawks in double figures with 16 points.
"It was a lot of fun being here and the biggest atmosphere our team has ever been a part of," Amelio said. "We learned a lot."
Notre Dame finished with a 48-18 advantage for points in the paint, 39-34 in rebounding, 23-10 for second-chance points and had 26 assists.
"Guys got more comfortable, especially the new guys," Brey said. "The first time they had the uniforms on, a little wacky."
Irish co-captain Tim Abromaitis, who scored a team-high 28 points the first time out eight days earlier, again led the Irish with 20, but it was a quick 20. Abromaitis played all 20 minutes in the first half, but only five in the second before retiring to the bench with a towel draped over his shoulders for the final 15 minutes.
"It made sense to see how they moved without me in the second half," Abromaitis said. "They looked pretty good."
For Abromaitis, it was his last chance at actual game competition until the Nov. 21 matchup with Missouri in the semifinals of the CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo. Abromaitis must sit out the first four games of the regular season after Brey misinterpreted an NCAA eligibility rule during Abromaitis' sophomore season.
"He becomes player-coach," Brey said. "He'll be great in that role; he'll be unbelievable."
The Irish dressed only eight available scholarship players with junior Tom Knight suffering from pneumonia. Senior co-captain Scott Martin, who suffered a sprained right ankle late last month, did not play for the second consecutive exhibition game.
Notre Dame men's basketball: Newcomers impress in exhibition win
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.