March 22, 2000
* Coach Doherty
* T. Murphy
* D. Graves
By JR ROSS
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Now the Irish will find out if the NIT is as good to them in Madison Square Garden as it has been in the Joyce Center.
Notre Dame, which played three straight NIT games at home, advanced to the tournament semifinals Tuesday night, beating BYU 64-52 behind Troy Murphy’s 19 points and nine rebounds.
“It might be kind of our home away from home,” said guard David Graves of Notre Dame’s third trip to New York this season after playing in the preseason NIT and the Big East tournament there. “We still have some things to prove. We’re not going to just be happy to be in the semifinals.”
The Cougars, forced to travel 1,800 miles Tuesday to play Notre Dame (21-14), hung tough in the final minutes.
But the Irish responded to each spurt by BYU (22-11) with a run of their own for a return trip to New York, where they lost two games in the preseason NIT.
BYU was able to cut the Notre Dame lead to 52-47 with less than seven minutes left. But the Irish responded with an 8-0 run, capped by Mike Monserez’s 3-pointer.
The Irish also cut off a BYU surge less than two minutes into the second half, when Michael Vranes’ jumper pulled the Cougars within 40-39. BYU scored just once on its next 10 possessions, and the Irish went on a 10-2 run to gain some breathing room.
“This was a game where we had a lead and if we’d let it slip away it would’ve been devastating,” said Notre Dame coach Matt Doherty, who grew up in Long Island. “We were lucky to get by. It was not the prettiest of games. I don’t think they had their legs.”
Though the Cougars spent all day Tuesday just getting to South Bend, they showed few signs of fatigue until the second half. After starting the game 6-of-14 from 3-point range, the Cougars lost their touch from long range, hitting just 2-of-15 in the final period.
“We got worn out and our shots weren’t falling for us,” said BYU forward Mekeli Wesley. “Usually, we hit our shots when we get open looks. Tonight we got open looks, but didn’t hit the shots.”
The Irish expected BYU to use the road trip to South Bend as a motivator after the Cougars were snubbed for a third NIT home game despite outdrawing Notre Dame by more than 7,000 fans in the second round. But Murphy said that actually worked in Notre Dame’s favor.
“I was a little upset about the comments about BYU not getting a home game, that Notre Dame was on the way to New York,” said Murphy, who had several exchanges with BYU players. “That’s the kind of stuff if you read it, you get excited. You shouldn’t say that kind of stuff.”
Graves scored 13 for the Irish, who will play Penn State on Tuesday in the NIT semifinals.
The Irish weren’t able to pull away until the end because they couldn’t hold onto the ball, turning it over 18 times. That helped the Cougars compensate for getting to the free throw line only seven times, hitting four. The Irish were 16-of-18 from the stripe.
Vranes, Wesley and John Allen scored 10 points apiece for BYU.
Notre Dame led 38-32 at halftime after Jere Macura put back Murphy’s miss just before the buzzer.
“Would this have been a different game at BYU? Of course it would have. Everybody plays better at home,” said BYU coach Steve Cleveland. “I don’t think fatigue was a factor. If we play this at home, we make some of those 3s.”