Jan. 6, 2000
Irish Audio Clips From Thursday’s Return Home
? Coach Doherty
? T. Murphy
? J. Dillon
? M. Ingelsby
By JR ROSS
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Matt Doherty didn’t want Notre Dame to be a one-hit wonder after the Irish upset Ohio State in the opening round of the NIT.
Mission accomplished. With their 75-70 defeat of No. 2 Connecticut Wednesday night, the Irish have wins over two top five teams in a season for the first time in 19 years – and regained some of the respect the program lost during a run of mediocrity.
“Ohio State was big, and it was important to wake up the echoes,” Doherty said Thursday after the team returned from Connecticut. “But deep down, some people thought we caught Ohio State down and it was a fluke thing. This wasn’t a fluke thing.”
Notre Dame (10-5) beat the then-No. 4 Buckeyes on a last-second shot by David Graves that seemed to shock them as much as it did Ohio State. As a stunned Buckeyes crowd stood in silence, the Irish tackled Graves on the court in a wild celebration.
This time, there was no chest bumping or fist pumping. The Irish led almost the entire game, confounding Connecticut with their 2-3 zone. After the final buzzer, they acted like they’d been there before, shook hands with the Huskies and casually jogged into the locker room – and then celebrated.
“There is no question it wasn’t a fluke,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “They outplayed us … and we didn’t respond well to missing shots, and we didn’t play defense anywhere near where we’re capable.”
Doherty has the Irish playing nothing like a program that has had only three winning records in the past nine seasons. In addition to the wins over Ohio State and Connecticut, the Irish played tough against No. 5 Arizona and No. 12 Maryland in the NIT final. They also took 10th-ranked Indiana into overtime before being outscored 19-2 in the extra period.
It’s all part of Doherty’s plan to reconnect the Irish to their once proud past. He put shamrocks on the uniforms, brought in former Notre Dame stars to talk with players and kept reminding his team of the Miracle Mets, telling them “you got to believe.”
“He’s instilled a lot of confidence in us, confidence that we can go out and compete with these teams that hasn’t been there in recent years,” said leading scorer Troy Murphy, who had 33 points and 16 rebounds against the Huskies. “We know his credentials. He’s played on a national championship team. He’s coached in the Final Four. We know that he knows what he’s doing and we believe in him.”
A member of North Carolina’s 1982 national championship team and a former assistant under Roy Williams at Kansas, Doherty’s credentials won him instant credibility with his players.
He also brought a passion to Notre Dame that the program hasn’t seen in years. He cried at the news conference announcing his hiring. He pumped his fist at the Ohio State crowd as the team sprinted into the locker room with a halftime lead. He got hit with a technical foul against the Huskies for complaining to referees as he walked down the tunnel to the locker room – after the first half.
Most importantly, he’s gotten the Irish to believe.
“We belong up there,” Graves said. “We’re competing against those teams and winning against those teams. Last year, we just had the mentality of trying to compete and trying not to get embarrassed. This year, we’re going in there trying to win.”