Canisius at Notre Dame gameday 12/29/13

Canisius’ final nonconference game of the season is at 5 p.m. tonight at Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion. The game is televised nationally on ESPNU and I’ll be in attendance.

The teams: Canisius: 8-4, 2-0 MAAC, 2-3 road. RPI: 118. Streak: Won two and five of their last six.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish: 8-4, 0-0 ACC, 7-2 home. RPI: 127. Streak: Lost one and two of their last three.

Previous game: Five Griffs scored in double figures as Canisius beat Lamar 87-74 on Dec. 21. Canisius was outrebounded 36-32 by a 1-10 Lamar team, which was a point of emphasis from coach Jim Baron in the postgame.

Notre Dame led No. 3 Ohio State by eight points in the final minute but couldn’t hold on as the Buckeyes rallied for a 64-61 win on Dec. 21. Four players were in double digits and the Irish shot 45.1 percent from the field but made only 11 of 19 free throws and had only one point off the bench.

About Notre Dame: The big story in this game is how Notre Dame responds to the loss of its leading scorer, Jerian Grant, who left the school for academic reasons following the conclusion of the fall semester. Grant, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, was averaging 19.0 points per game and also led the team with 6.2 assists per game and 2.0 steals per game. “It’s almost like [having] practice No. 1 on Dec. 26,” ND coach Mike Brey told reporters in his teleconference.

Center Garrick Sherman (6-foot-11, 255 pounds) is second on the team in scoring at 14.3 ppg and will be a load to handle inside for Chris Manhertz and Jordan Heath. Combo guard Pat Connaughton scores 13.8 ppg and guard Eric Atkins adds 11.8 ppg. The team also announced this week that sophomore Cam Biedscheid, who planned to redhshirt this season, will transfer instead.

Series history: Canisius last beat Notre Dame in 1961 and has never won on the road (0-7).

The takeaway: Notre Dame is one of the best teams Canisius will play all season. The Irish pose matchup problems for the Griffs even without Grant, but if their offense sputters in their first game without their best player, the Griffs need to be ready to pounce on the opportunity. The game will be dictated by how Mike Brey’s team can respond to the loss, but even without its leading scorer, Notre Dame still has enough talent to give the Griffs trouble. That said, this is likely Canisius’ best shot to pull in upset in quite some time.

No live blog tonight, but follow along on Twitter @NickVeronica and tune to ESPNU for a national broadcast.