March 16, 2001
By RICK GANO
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo.- Troy Murphy struggled with his shot, but his Notre Dame teammate David Graves couldn’t miss Friday night. And now the Irish are moving on in the NCAA tournament.
Graves, inserted into the starting lineup to add scoring punch, hit all seven of his field-goal attempts and the Irish shot 63 percent to beat Xavier 83-71 in the Midwest Regional
“This is a great shooting arena. They got the ball to me for easy shots,” Graves said. “Coach (Mike) Brey told me I would be starting when we were in the airport Thursday night. I’ve been feeling good about my shooting all week.”
Matt Carroll led the Irish with 21 points, shooting 9-of-11. Graves, who’d been coming off the bench since spraining his ankle in mid-January, had 20.
Murphy, the first-team All-American, added 19 points but shot just 6-of-17.
“I didn’t shoot it well and my teammates picked me up and made it easy. They got me a couple late for dunks and Sunday I’ll shoot it better,” Murphy said.
Notre Dame (20-9), in its first NCAA tournament since 1990, will face Ole Miss in the second round. Mississippi beat Iona 72-70 Friday.
Xavier star David West, saddled by foul problems and good defense from a host of Irish defenders, most notably Ryan Humphrey, scored 19 points and had eight rebounds.
The Musketeers, finishing 21-8, couldn’t stop the Irish and couldn’t make shots of their own, hitting just 3-of-20 on 3-pointers.
“It’s not that we weren’t scrappy. We were. But it’s hard when the other team shoots 63 percent,” Xavier coach Skip Prosser said.
“You can’t hope they miss, you have to make them miss and we didn’t do that.”
The Irish entered the tournament on a downer with three straight losses, but built a 40-26 halftime lead and made it stand.
Carroll hit a 3-pointer with 10:12 left to give the Irish a 55-38 lead.
In the final minute and a half as Xavier trapped to get back in the game, Humphrey got open for three uncontested dunks.
Murphy, who missed six of his first seven shots, hit a jumper and then got free for a dunk as the Irish went on a 14-0 first-half run, holding Xavier scoreless for six minutes to take a 25-12 lead. Graves had a three-point play and a 3-pointer during the spurt.
West, meanwhile picked up his second foul and the Atlantic 10 player of the year went to the bench scoreless with 9:32 left in the half. He returned and finally got his first basket with 5:41 to go in the half.
Xavier cut the lead to seven before Carroll connected on a 3-pointer and a jumper right before the buzzer to give the Irish a 14-point halftime lead.
Xavier’s hopes of catching up were crushed by its poor shooting.
“If you don’t make shots it zaps away your energy,” Prosser said
“When you get in trouble you have to shoot or execute your way out. The good teams execute their way out. That’s not what we did.”
West had 20 double-doubles this season for the Musketeers, who were making their fourth NCAA appearance in seven years under coach Skip Prosser. The 6-foot-8 sophomore averaged 17.8 points and 11 rebounds.
Murphy averaged 22 points and nine rebounds as Notre Dame won the Big East West division in Mike Brey’s first season as coach.
Murphy had managed just eight points as the Irish were bumped out by Pitt in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament when he shot just 2-for-11. It snapped his streak of 78 straight double-figure scoring games.
Murphy didn’t shoot well again but the Irish compensated this time.
“Mike did a greab job of maximizing the other guys’ talents without minimizing Murphy,” Prosser said.