March 1, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – One thing, which the Irish have proven this season, is that when their backs are against the wall, they come out swinging.
After two tough losses, Notre Dame hopes to surprise Syracuse in Wednesday night’s game. The Orangemen won the first meeting this year, 80-57.
“I think that we will play,” Doherty said. “I think that we will play hard against Syracuse. We may play well but not well enough to beat a team like Syracuse. We are going to give it a shot. We have been pretty good about responding after a couple set backs.”
Something, which has hurt the Irish all season, is the opponent’s hot hands. In numerous games, a member of the opponent’s squad has shot the lights out against Notre Dame both at home and on the road.
Earlier this season, Syracuse’s Preston Shumpert drilled home seven 3-pointers in route to 26 points. Rutger’s Todd Billet sank eight from behind the arc to contribute to his 31 points. The most recent performance came in the Providence loss when Donta Wade shoot 10 3-pointers on his way to 38 points.
“Yes, there is no question,” Doherty said about his team needing to recognize who has the hot hands.
Some criticism has come over the fact that Doherty often chooses to stick with the zone rather than go to man-to-man in those situations. In cases like the Providence game, many wonder why Doherty chose not to assign a single player to defend Wade.
“Since we have gone zone we have won a lot of basketball games,” Doherty said. “It protects guys from getting into foul trouble.”
In the last UConn game, the zone allowed the Huskies to go to the line only three times. On the other hand, the Irish went to the line 28 times, sinking 23 of their free throws. Doherty believes this really helped his team clinch the win.
Notre Dame enters tonight’s game after what Doherty described as a “frustrating loss” to Miami. The Irish wasted a 12-point lead over the Hurricanes to fall, 55-52.
“It was a frustrating game,” Doherty said. “I think it was one of the most frustrating games for me because we had the game. I don’t mind losing a game if we execute properly and play hard. I thought we played hard but we did not execute properly. It looked like the team had never been coached before which is a reflection on me.”
The Irish will look to pound the ball into sophomore Troy Murphy. Murphy saw very little open looks at the basket in the Miami contest. He finished with 14 points and 10 boards, which was enough to earn him his 17th double-double of the season. Although his team did not come out on top.
“The first half, they did a great job of really taking Troy away,” Doherty said about the Miami game. “We tried to make them play by not guard our five man. They were really good but he can recover quickly. Troy is willing to sacrifice as long as we were doing well. In the second half, we had some opportunities to give him the ball.”
Watch for the Irish to try and capitalize on any opportunities, which Murphy may have. The sophomore is the leading candidate for Big East player of the year. He leads the conference in scoring and rebounding.
“The mindset of our players is key,” Doherty said about tonight’s game. “They have got to feel mad but determined. They need to feel energized to play.”
The energy of Wednesday night’s game could be felt early Wednesday morning. Students already had begun to line-up to ensure prime seating for the big game. Some had even camped overnight to get the best seats.