Jan. 13, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Doubts no longer abound when it comes to Notre Dame basketball. For the first time in years, people are starting to believe in the team.
Notre Dame extended its Big East winning streak to two games last night with a win over Boston College, 86-77. This is the first time since joining the Big East conference that the Irish have started their conference play with two big wins.
With each major upset, there comes opportunity for a major letdown. Irish head coach Matt Doherty seems prepared to battle those letdowns with his own type of medicine, running.
“I was concerned about a letdown,” Doherty said. “It made for a tough week. I think it was probably good that we had a week off but maybe it wasn’t good. It was a long week for me and a long week for the guys.”
For a week, the Irish had the opportunity to dwell on their upset of defending national champion UConn but Doherty was prepared. After a couple of practices with lackluster results the first-year head coach got frustrated. He brought the team in on their day off and forced them to run which definitely got their attention.
“Saturday we went hard because I was going to give them Sunday off,” Doherty said. “We didn’t really concentrate the way I would have liked. Some things crept into our game that I didn’t like so I brought them back Sunday night to work them out as punishment. They didn’t like that. They got mad at me, which is fine. I was just afraid that we were going to have a big time letdown and that is not to take anything away from Boston College.”
The Irish did not post their most impressive victory of the season on Wednesday night. In the win, Notre Dame had 19 turnovers and allowed Boston College to grab 23 offensive rebounds.
After the win, Doherty explained his reasoning for making the team go extra hard on a scheduled day off.
“Guys were complaining about sore feet,” Doherty said about problems he had with last week’s practice. “Guys weren’t running back on defense. Guys were not setting tough screens. At first it had to do with the energy level because I wasn’t sensing it. Then those things started to creep in and then I went off. I wanted them to know that with winning comes responsibility. You raise the bar and now you have to work even harder.”
Despite having problems with the boards and the turnovers, Notre Dame managed to hang on to the victory. Sophomore Troy Murphy led the team with 27 points and seven rebounds, including going a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.
Doherty kept his defensive format the same and went with the zone, which has blanketed his team’s opponents quite successfully. Notre Dame held BC to 36 percent shooting for the game. The Eagles tried to relay on their outside game, launching a Big East record of 36 three-point field goal attempts.
“It is our base defense,” senior guard Jimmy Dillon said. “It has given a lot of teams trouble. We played zone on UConn and snuck out of there with a victory. It has been successful for us all year and we weren’t going to change this just for the Boston College game.”
The Irish managed to hold the Eagles’ weapon Troy Bell in check with only four points in the first half. Bell finished the game with 24 points.
“I think the win was very important just to show that we didn’t have a letdown after a big win like that,” freshman Matt Carroll said. “I think that coach was most scared of us having a letdown after that game.”
Carroll had 15 points against the Eagles. Sophomore David Graves and Harold Swanagan scored 13 and 11 points respectively.
“I have to give credit to Boston College because they fought,” Doherty said. “They were tough on defense and they put pressure on the basketball. They have some strong, tough kids. We were lucky to have a little spurt in the second half where we broke their press and scored a couple of times.”
Everyone knows that there is a method to the madness. Watching the Irish hit the floor and pound the boards for every loose ball showed that they aren’t ready for this year’s success to end. Maybe it was Doherty’s running that did the trick or maybe it wasn’t.
Though one thing seems quite sure, Notre Dame is no longer seen as any win for any team in the Big East.