Jan. 5, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – One of the lessons that came early for the Irish revolved around playing big-time match-ups. Notre Dame is no stranger to them, having already played big-time games at Ohio State and Indiana.
Now the lesson has again popped up but this time it involves the second-ranked Huskies of Connecticut. Tonight, the Irish are set to take on the Huskies at the Hartford Civic Center.
“I hope that we have had enough experience in big-time atmospheres that we won’t come out and kind of wade into it, and then say, ‘OK, we’re down 15, now let’s play,'” Irish head coach Matt Doherty said. “We can’t afford that.”
Wednesday’s game marks the seventh meeting for the Irish and Huskies. UConn currently leads the series with five wins an only a single loss to Notre Dame. The Irish’s only victory came on the team’s home court back in February of 1997.
Behind the leadership of Pat Garrity, the Irish defeated UConn, 71-65 in the overtime win. Garrity chipped in 25 points and 15 rebounds in Notre Dame’s only defeat of Connecticut.
Watch for the Huskies to try and smother sophomore sensation Troy Murphy in the post. The forward enters the game with ten double-doubles already this season. He had 31 points and pulled down 14 rebounds in only 31 minutes of play on Sunday. Murphy already has earned Big East Player of the Week honors three times this season.
The Irish have their sights zeroed in on Khalid El-Amin, who commands the team from the guard position. If El-Amin gets fired up, that intensity will quickly spread to all the Huskies who are looking at tonight’s game as another easy win. The Huskies are currently in pursuit of their 11th straight win.
Doherty and his troops believe that they can get the win. He has said that since the postgame interviews on Sunday.
“Ya gotta believe,” Doherty said. “If you don’t believe, lets not even get on the bus. Not even waste our time going. So we’re going to go in and believe we can win this basketball game but understand it’s a great team.”
It seems like Doherty’s troops believe their coach. All members of the squad rose bright and early on Monday morning and boarded the bus for the long trip to Connecticut. The team planned on practicing yesterday at Don Bosco Prep former high school of senior Todd Palmer. The team also planned on touring ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut as well. Tonight’s game marks the fourth game in nine days for the Irish. After tonight, they will have a solid week of rest before playing Boston College.