March 29, 2000
NEW YORK – There is no place like home.
Or is there? Having played five games in Madison Square Garden, the Irish realize that the Garden is beginning to offer the comforts of home.
“I like playing here,” sophomore Troy Murphy said. “I feel comfortable playing here.”
The Irish appeared to be in control from the start in their home away from home. Notre Dame cruised to 73-52 win over Penn State in the NIT semifinal, earning the team a birth in the NIT finals for the first time since 1992.
“There are only two teams that will end their season with a win and hopefully we’ll be one of them,” sophomore David Graves said. “No one expected us to be here, no one expected us to be in the post season, it’s a relief to prove everyone wrong.”
The Irish have managed to do just what Graves said. In the four games, which the Irish have played, they have beaten all four opponents by ten points or more.
Once again All-American Troy Murphy paced the Irish with 18 points and eight boards. He also registered three blocked shots. Graves finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Freshman Matt Carroll turned in a solid performance with 13 points and five rebounds. He also set a career-high with four steals against Penn State.
“The last five games coach really stressed for us to come out and be the aggressor,” sophomore Troy Murphy said. “Right from the start we wanted to be the aggressor and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
The Irish started the game off on a 15-2 run and never looked back. Penn State cut the lead back to four points at the close of the half but that is as close as it would get. The Nittany Lions only came within 12 points in the second half.
Notre Dame rallied of its bench play. Freshman Jere Macura came off the bench and scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
A concern for the Irish rests with point guard Jimmy Dillon. The senior hobbled off the court with a little under seven minutes left to play in the game. He appeared to have severely sprained his left ankle.
Doherty believed that Wednesday would be dedicated to icing the ankle as well as elevating it. Dillon finished the game with four points and three assists.
“These kids want to win, we’ve talked all tournament about proving people wrong,” Doherty said. “We are glad we have this opportunity here with the NIT and to give us the opportunity to play for a championship.”
Thursday night’s game will mark the team’s sixth performance in Madison Square Garden. They will face Wake Forest in the NIT championship game, which will be carried live by ESPN.