Dec. 19, 2000

By Bernadette Cafarelli

A “W” in the win column on Sunday afternoon against Tennessee Tech (82-68) put more than a few smiles on the faces of Irish head coach Mike Brey, his coaching staff and players.

It had been far too long (15 days to be exact) since Notre Dame walked off the court with a victory. But the Irish, now 5-2 on the season, had little time to think about the win as tonight’s matchup with Canisius marks the second game in just over 48 hours for Brey’s squad.

Notre Dame leads the all-time series 6-4, but this will be the first meeting between the two schools since the 1982-83 campaign. The Irish have won three straight over the Golden Griffins who will be making their second-ever visit to the Joyce Center tonight.

Canisius also sports a 5-2 record heading into tonight’s game following Saturday’s 78-71 victory at Cornell. The Golden Griffins rallied from a 13-point (41-28) halftime deficit by opening with a 17-4 run to start the second half as they shot 61 percent from the field in the second half.

Notre Dame’s victory over Tennessee Tech two days ago produced a similar scenario for the Irish who headed into the game with a rare two-game losing streak at home. Tied at 30-30 at halftime, the Irish outscored the Golden Eagles 27-7 in the first 8:18 of the second half breaking open the game. Notre Dame shot a sizzling 61.3 percent in the second half.

Against Tennessee Tech, all five Irish starters scored in double figures for the second time this season. Junior David Graves led the Irish with season-high 20 points, while Matt Carroll turned in a strong 16-point performance despite a hip injury that caused him to miss practice time last week. He connected on six-of-nine shots from the field, including a three-for-four effort from three-point range.

Senior Martin Ingelsby, who at times has been the heart and soul of this Notre Dame basketball team, had 13 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals in playing 38 minutes of the contest. The most noteworthy statistic in that stat column for Ingelsby, his one turnover. The senior co-captain for the sixth time in seven games had just one turnover. Only against Miami of Ohio did he turn the ball over more than once (he had two turnovers).

Ingelsby’s play continues to be impressive. Tabbed by Brey even before the start of the preseason as the floor general of this Irish team, Ingelsby has done little to shake the faith and support of the Notre Dame coaching staff and his teammates this season.

Ingelsby currently is averaging 36.0 minutes per game, and has logged more minutes (252), than any Irish player on the team. In the last five games, he has averaged 39.4 minutes per game. In those five outings he has played the entire 40 minutes in two of those games and 39 minutes in the other three.

His 49 assists (7.0 per game) lead the team, while his 6.125 assist-to-turnover ratio is best in the BIG EAST. Ingelsby’s eight turnovers in 252 minutes translates into a turnover every 31.5 minutes.

Ryan Humphrey proved to be a dominating force on the boards for the Irish against Tennessee Tech as he came up with a game-high 11 boards, in addition to his 12 points. It was the second double double for Humphrey in a Notre Dame uniform and the 12th of his career.

Rebounding proved to be the difference in the game for the Irish in the second half, something that Brey and the Irish had stressed in practices the past week after the back-to-back losses to Indiana and Miami (Ohio). In the three games prior to Tennessee Tech, Notre Dame had been decisively outrebounded by its opponents.

The Irish earned a three-point win at Vanderbilt despite being outrebounded 39-33 in the game. Against Indiana, the Hoosiers owned a 42-33 advantage on the glass, while the RedHawks, in their 73-64 win, thoroughly dominated Notre Dame 44-26 on the boards.

Sunday’s rebounding efforts in the first half appeared much the same as has occurred in the three previous game as the Golden Eagles had a 30-24 rebounding edge in the first half.

Brey’s halftime talk, however, must have zeroed in the importance of rebounding as the Irish finished with game with 55 boards as Notre Dame outrebounded Tennessee Tech 31-13 in the second half. The Irish gave the Golden Eagles few second chances and produced the kind of performance on the glass that Brey is looking for in every contest.

Troy Murphy, whose play the last two games was hindered by a sprained ankle suffered the day before the Indiana game on Dec. 4, had 13 points and nine rebounds, in addition to three blocked shots. Murphy, who leads the team in scoring with a 22.4 scoring average, extended his streak of consecutive games in double figures to 58 contests. The 13 points, however, marked the lowest scoring output for the Irish junior in 58 games dating back his freshman season.

Four of Notre Dame’s five starters are averaging in double figures. Behind Murphy is Humphrey who is averaging 16.4 points and a team-leading 8.4 rebounds. Graves is averaging 15.6 points and 4.3 rebounds, while Carroll is fourth in scoring (12.9 ppg.) and third in rebounding (5.6). Carroll is also second on the team with 33 assists (4.7 aspg.).

After the loss to Miami on Dec. 9, Brey pointed to getting his bench more playing time in preparation for the start of BIG EAST play. The first-year Irish mentor knows that in order for his team to be successful once conference play begins, the effort of his bench is going to be critical. Sophomores Ivan Kartelo and Jere Macura benefited most in the Tennessee Tech game as each played 15 minutes.

Over the course of the next three home games against Canisius, Vermont and Long Island, Brey will continue to get his reserves more playing time as he works them into the rotation.

Heading into the Tennessee Tech game, free-throw shooting had proven to be a strong point for the Irish. Improvement in that area had been a point of emphasis for Brey in the preseason, and continues to be an important part of every practice.

Leading up to Sunday’s game, Notre Dame had converted more than 75 percent of their free-throw opportunities. Against Tennessee Tech, the Irish suffered through its poorest free-throw shooting effort of the season, hitting just 30.4 percent from the charity stripe as they converted just seven of their 23 attempts. Even Murphy, a career 78 percent free-throw shooter, found the going rough as he missed his first six and finished the game hitting just one-of-seven from the line.

The focus of Notre Dame’s improvement over the next three games will be defense. The Irish limited Tennessee Tech to 29.2 percent accuracy from field. While Notre Dame is shooting 48.4 percent from the field as a team, the Irish have held opponents to just 38.0 percent from the field and 28.8 percent from three-point range. Notre Dame’s defense is also giving up just 68.3 points per game, a statistic similar to last year as Irish opponents averaged just 68.1 points per contest.

Like Notre Dame, Canisius snapped its own two-game losing streak with its victory over Cornell three days ago. Heading into the contest, the Golden Griffins had dropped back-to-back Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tests to Niagara (80-77) and Rider (84-75).

Tonight’s contest will be the fifth road game for Canisius as the Griffs own a 3-1 mark on the road. Similar to Notre Dame, Canisius displays a balanced scoring attack with five players averaging in double figures, four of them starters.

Mike MacDonald is in his fourth season as head coach of the Golden Griffins. The former Canisius assistant was named to the head coaching post back in April of 1997.

Topping the scoring charts for Canisius is 6-1 senior guard Clive Bentick, who is averaging a career-best 16.7 points per game. Senior center Darren Fenn is the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder averaging 14.7 and 6.9, respectively. Junior Tory Jefferson is third in the scoring column with an 11.1 scoring average, while leading the team with a 7.1 rebounding average. Junior Andrew Bush and sophomore Brian Dux are the other two players averaging double figures scoring netting 10.6 and 10.3 points per game, respectively.

Following tonight’s game, the Irish entertain Vermont on Thurs., Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m. before an eight-day hiatus for the Christmas holiday. Notre Dame plays the final game of this current six-game home stretch by hosting Long Island on Fri., Dec. 29 at 7:30 p.m.