March 9, 2000
NEW YORK – Notre Dame added another first to its list of accomplishments.
On Wednesday night, the Irish captured their first win ever in the Big East tournament. The Irish defeated the Scarlet Knights, 74-62.
The Irish have never managed to win a tournament game since joining the conference. Notre Dame’s seventh seeding also registers as the team’s highest seeding in the tournament.
“It means a lot,” Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy said about the win. “It means a lot to the program. We have never had a win in the Big East tournament, so, you know, it’s a step forward for us and it was a great team win tonight.”
“It was a great win for us,” Irish head coach Matt Doherty said. “We were embarrassed at Rutgers, about a month and a half ago, and we had a lot to prove to ourselves and I guess to other people that we could play against the tough physical man-to-man defense.”
Notre Dame turned in a solid offensive effort, shooting 52.9 percent from the field. Rutgers shot just 36.5 percent.
Murphy led the team with 25 points and 14 rebounds. The sophomore earned his second double-double in just two appearances in tournament play. In last year’s first round loss, Murphy scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
On Tuesday night, the Big East named Troy Murphy Big East Player of the Year. The sophomore is the first player in the history of the Big East to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding.
Murphy made clear his excitement about drawing Rutgers in the first round. The Scarlet Knights embarrassed the Irish, 76-51. Murphy scored just 18 points.
“They really got me, you know, playing there,” Murphy said about the last game. “Today, I just tried to focus on the game plan. “
David Graves and Harold Swanagan also helped the offensive effort, scoring 10 points apiece. Jere Macura gave the Irish a boost of the bench, also scoring 10 points.
Senior Jimmy Dillon helped execute the offense with relative ease. He dished out five assists and scored seven points.
“It’s been exciting for me throughout the whole year, even during the preseason,” Dillon said. “I just got a sense that we had something special this year. Our togetherness and you know, even with the coaches, it just seemed like a lot of things were clicking this year that hadn’t in the past.”
With Wednesday night’s win, the Irish secured a spot in the quarterfinals against second-seeded Miami.
“They again might be the best defensive team we face this year,” Doherty said.
The Hurricanes finished the regular season tied with Syracuse for the Big East regular season title. Miami also boasts having Johnny Hemsley. The Big East named Hemsley to the second team all Big East.
“They’re the co-champs of the league,” Doherty said. “So we have nothing to lose really. If we go out there, play hard, play smart, play together and hopefully at the end we’re in the position to win a game.”
Doherty and his squad have proven that they can play with the top teams. They hope that come Thursday, they can surprise Miami and keep their dream season alive.