Feb. 11, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame is preparing for the worst.
Irish coach Matt Doherty and his squad realize that the 12th-ranked Huskies will no longer take the Irish for granted.
“If they shoot the ball well, it will be a tough night for us,” Doherty said. “If we make some shoots, like we did last time, and test their shooters and rebound well then we might have a chance. They are not going to take us lightly and I am not sure they did the first time.”
Notre Dame knocked off the second-ranked Huskies back in early January, 75-70. Sophomore Troy Murphy turned in a phenomenal performance with 33 points and 16 rebounds.
Doherty talked animatedly about his team’s mental toughness after the big win. He proudly discussed how the Irish stood strong while the Huskies tried to make their runs. Doherty saw his team fight for rebounds and dive for loose balls all to his pleasure.
Unfortunately, Doherty has not seen play like that from his team in a long time. He talked about his disgust with execution, lack of hustle and team play, after his two road losses.
“I just want us to play better,” Doherty said. “I want us to have good effort, play hard and to execute which we haven’t done lately.”
In the 86-69 loss to Villanova, execution proved a major problem for Doherty’s squad. The team turned the ball over 26 times against the Wildcats. It registered as the most turnovers for the Irish since the Indiana game.
Notre Dame went from an opportunity of being one of the leaders in the Big East to a mediocre record at 5-5. The Irish have been almost unstoppable when in home contests but the record games have killed the team’s record. Currently the team is 2-8 when on the road.
“You want to win them all,” Doherty said about the games. “You want to have a place at home where you can win. You want to have energy you can tap into from the fans and the students. We have that now and that is great. You want to have cockiness when you go into an opponent’s court and feel that you can win. We have shown that on a couple of occasions but on other occasions of late we have not.”
The Irish are in desperate need of a win before hitting the road again. Saturday’s game against the Huskies has been sold out for months and should be an interesting contest.
“At home especially with a younger team, we are more confident and we get some extra energy from the fans and the students,” Doherty said. “We certainly haven’t had that in the past two games on the road.”
No matter what the outcome, Doherty just wants to see the team from earlier this season emerge from the locker room. He wants to see determination.
“It is all about effort with me,” Doherty said. “If you play hard, then I could deal with some losing. I don’t think we played hard. We didn’t execute and that is listening and concentrating.”
In this week’s practice Doherty has not tried to rebuild his ego by showing highlight tapes. Instead, he has shown tough love by demanding the best from his players. Doherty makes no excuses for his young team because he knows that they are capable of finishing strong.
“All of a sudden we are looking at a losing record in the league and overall if we don’t win a couple of games,” Doherty said. “We have got to win a couple games here for ourselves, postseason play, a seed in the tournament and all those things.”
The Irish look to finish strong and they start on Saturday with Connecticut.