Nov. 24, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Irish head coach Matt Doherty stresses the importance of focus.
He would not allow his team to overlook its first regular season opponent in St. Francis, despite the fact that the Irish were in the midst of the Preseason NIT tournament.
“The guys did a job,” Doherty said about his team. “They really did a good job of focusing.”
Doherty told his team to wait until this past Sunday, after the St. Francis game to take calls on tickets and worry about eighth-ranked Arizona.
“Obviously, they are very talented team,” sophomore forward David Graves said. “Probably the type of game we will face is similar to Ohio State with some quick guards and some big guys that can really play. We are going to have to buckle down defensively and offensively our execution will take care of itself. I think we will get the shots but we are going to have to fire it up and be ready to play.”
Now the true test comes, Arizona kicks off two weeks of solid competition. The Irish received 160 votes in the AP poll, which ranks them 27th in the country. The question is will Notre Dame live up to its rank against 24th-ranked Maryland or 11th ranked Kentucky on Friday in either the finals or the third-place game.
“Coach Olson is a very good coach and a very good recruiter,” Doherty said. “I would love to have the success he has had at Arizona here at Notre Dame.”
“It will be an interesting match up between Michael Wright and Troy Murphy,” Doherty said. “They are both similar players. They are both 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9, low post players who are left-handed and can step out there and shoot it.”
Murphy’s performance in the last week did not go unnoticed as he was recognized as Big East player of the week. The Notre Dame forward scored a career-high 35 points in the win over St. Francis. He averaged 29 points and 10.3 rebounds in the team’s first wins.
When asked if he ever imagined his team being where it is, Doherty answered a definitive, “Yes and I have to have that mindset.”
No doubt about it, the Irish are off to their best season in 11 years which none of them are taking for granted and none want the good times to end.
The game between the Irish and the Wildcats is set for a 6 p.m. tip-off with the winner advancing to the Preseason NIT finals.