Aug. 21, 2008
Editor’s note: During the Notre Dame men’s basketball team’s 12-day, four-city foreign tour of Ireland, senior guard Kyle McAlarney will file a daily diary after talking by phone with the South Bend Tribune’s Tom Noie. Following are McAlarney’s thoughts on day 9 of the trip.
DUBLIN, Ireland – It turned into a BIG EAST game for us (Thursday) in our rematch with the Ireland national team, and the game pressure we had on us was huge. We beat Ireland last week (Friday) by 37 points, but we knew it wouldn’t be that easy for us again. They had a bunch of new guys on the team and the game was a real physical game. It was tough. There were times where they really took it to us. We were up eight at one point and looked to close it out, but it came down to an end-of-game situation.
In the huddle just before the final play, we said to ourselves, ‘This is where we want to be, making big plays at big times in the game.’ We won (90-88) in the last five seconds.
Their guard Donnie McGrath (who played collegiately at Providence) got the ball and started to drive. Zach (Hillesland) played tough defense on him. That allowed Ryan (Ayers) to come over and help. He deflects the ball, steals it and races the length of the floor and gets a dunk with like two seconds to play. It was very emotional.
By far, that dunk was more exciting than the one Ryan had against Syracuse last year (a two-handed slam on the break over Orange forward Kristof Ongenaet). I was so happy for him. To make a play like that, in that situation where it wasn’t a sure thing that we’d win, really makes a statement as to who we are as a team.
We wanted to get a stop in that situation, but the last thing we’re thinking about is a steal. We just wanted to dig in and defend. Zach played great defense and Ryan has such quick hands.
The game pressure was good for us.
We started me, Tory (Jackson) and Jon (Peoples) at the guards at Zach and Luke (Harangody) up front. It was the first time we’ve ever started three true guards. Jon has been playing excellent for us here in Ireland and Coach (Mike) Brey realized that. It’s comfortable for me to have Jon in there. It’s not like we’re losing anything. It gave us a different look.
I’ve got to run because Mike (Mastrangelo, his best friend from back home in Staten Island, N.Y.) is waiting for me in the lobby. He and his wife checked into their hotel earlier in the day and came over to our hotel to find me. He saw one of our managers, Mike, and asked if he knew where Kyle was. I was just sitting down for pre-game meal when Mike came in to tell me that there were two people looking for me in the lobby. I went running down there and gave him the biggest hug.
To have him here means so much to me. This was the first time that I stood for the National Anthem before the game and didn’t think, ‘God, take care of my best friend, who’s fighting over in Afghanistan.’ (Mastrangelo is a combat medic in the U.S. Army now stationed in Germany and currently on leave)
Mike and his wife took a cab to the game. They had pretty good seats, not up in the nose-bleeds or anything. Just before the game, I looked up and found Mike, then gave him a little nod. It gave me an extra boost. Being with him over here is very special. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing how it’s worked out for us to be together. I haven’t seen him since right after we lost to Marquette in the BIG EAST tournament.
I don’t know if we’ll even go out tonight. I’m pretty tired. That game took a lot out of me. We’ll probably just hang out downstairs in the lobby and talk.
Before I go, I just have to give another shout-out to my buddy Rob here in Dublin. He read this week that I loved M&Ms and was looking for some here, so he brought me a bag. And Debbie, who works for the Emerald Hoops program, she brought me two bags of M&Ms. I just got done eating one. It was awesome.
Love you, Mom.