March 1, 2000
- Coach Doherty
- T. Murphy
- J. Dillon
By JR ROSS
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame coach Matt Doherty begged the fans to come back to the program. He pleaded with them to be rowdy. He desperately wanted the Joyce Center to be an intimidating place to play.
But not like this.
Referees assessed a technical foul on the Notre Dame crowd in the closing seconds for throwing objects onto the court and No. 9 Syracuse pulled out a 73-71 victory Wednesday night to clinch at least a share of the Big East regular season title.
“It was the third time something hit the floor, and I was on the microphone after the first one,” Doherty said. “It was a tough time to make that call, but it was our fault to be in that position. If we had played the first half the way we played the second, we would’ve been up by 10.”
The Irish (16-13, 7-8) were down 14 points at halftime and trailed by as many as 16 in the second half before mounting their charge with less than nine minutes left, trailing 62-49.
David Graves cut the Syracuse lead to 70-68 with 44 seconds left on a putback, and the Orangemen (24-3, 13-2) began to work the ball to take time off the clock.
Ryan Blackwell was fouled with 8.8 seconds left while driving to the basket, and the technical was assessed after someone in the student section threw a water bottle onto the court.
Blackwell, who led the Orangemen with 24 points, hit two of his ensuing four free throws to put Syracuse up 73-68. Troy Murphy hit a desperation 3-pointer with .7 seconds left, leaving Notre Dame no time to foul and get back the ball in a loss that dealt another damaging blow to their NCAA tournament hopes.
“I’m sure a lot will be made of the end, but if it hadn’t happened, it would have been a one-point game instead of a two-point game,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
It was the second time Notre Dame’s student section has been a factor in a big game within the last month. In a 68-66 win over Connecticut on Feb. 12, fans chanted “bastard children” at Huskies guard Khalid El-Amin, which led Doherty to write an apology to Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun.
Jason Hart scored 16 points while Etan Thomas added 15 for the Orangemen, who can clinch the title Saturday at No. 24 Connecticut.
“I don’t know why they were throwing stuff,” said Thomas, adding objects were thrown on the floor numerous time. “That doesn’t make much sense. I mean, that just messes it up for them. That wasn’t the best thing that they could do.”
Syracuse led by double digits most of the first half by doing the same thing the Orangemen did to Notre Dame in their first meeting – shooting over the zone. Syracuse hit five of its first six 3-pointers and went up 34-20 on Thomas’ dunk with 5:25 left in the half.
A jumper by Murphy, a 3-pointer by Jimmy Dillon and a three-point play from Harold Swanagan got the Irish back in the game at 34-28 90 seconds later.
But with their outside shooting cooling off, the Orangemen went inside to Thomas and Blackwell, who reeled off a quick six points to stretch the lead back to 12.
The Orangemen led 45-31 at halftime after Preston Shumpert hit a long-range 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds left.
Murphy, the league’s leading scorer at 23.1 points a game, finished with 20.
Just a week ago, the Irish seemed in good position to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in a decade. But losses to Providence, Miami and Syracuse have put an at-large bid in doubt.
“I probably made a mistake by talking too much about it, but it was all over the TV and the Internet. I guess I figured that I might as well be the one saying it,” Doherty said.