Dec. 7, 2006
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Notre Dame showed it knows how to finish.
The Irish opened a 10-point lead, then turned the ball over three straight times to let No. 4 Alabama close to 85-82. But Russell Carter hit a 3-pointer and added an 18-footer to ignite a 14-0 run as the Irish beat the Crimson Tide 99-85 on Thursday night.
“They were going in all night, so I just kept shooting and they just kept passing me the ball,” said Carter, who finished with a career-high 27 points.
The Irish, who last season lost five times on shots in the final 2 seconds, talked during a timeout late in the game how they weren’t going to let another game slip away this season.
“We were in this position 10, 11, 15 times last year, but this isn’t last year,” Carter said. “This is a new season. We’re not going to lose composure. We’ve all been through this, it’s about time to get a win from it.”
Irish coach Mike Brey said he was surprised his players thought about last season toward the end of the game.
“I thought I had the therapist clean that all out,” he said. “By the way, I’m the therapist.”
The Irish (7-1) did show signs of letting the game slip away, turning the ball over on three straight possessions. But Carter hit his two shots and Luke Harangody converted on a three-point play and it was the Crimson Tide players who lost their composure, turning the ball over on three straight possessions.
“We had a chance to get it to one and it just seems like we lost it two or three times and bang, bang, bang, they hit shots, then we turned the ball over,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “We competed really, really hard, we just didn’t finish it.”
Kyle McAlarney also had a career-high 20 points and Colin Falls also scored 20. The Irish were 12 of-28 from 3-point range. No team had shot better than 29 percent against Alabama (7-1) from the 3-point range in its first seven games.
Alonzo Gee led Alabama with 24 points, Ronald Steele had 13 and Jermareo Davidson 12.
“They just played hard and outhustled us,” Gee said.
The 99 points were the most scored by Notre Dame against a ranked opponent since a 101-98 win over No. 10 Syracuse on Feb. 15, 1992.
“I think our offensive efficiency was going to have to win it for us,” Brey said. “It was hard to keep them off the backboard they’re so athletic. We did get some stops and some steals at times.”
It was Notre Dame’s second straight win over a ranked opponent. They beat No. 23 Maryland 81-74 on Sunday to end a seven-game losing streak to ranked teams. The last time Notre Dame beat a team in the top five was Feb. 8, 2005, when it edged No. 4 Boston College 68-65.
After the game, Irish students flooded the court to celebrate. It was the first back-to-back wins over ranked teams for Notre Dame since beating No. 13 Marquette, No. 9 Maryland and No. 2 Texas in six days during the 2002-03 season. Both coaches talked afterward about the quality of play.
“I think, I hope, you watched two NCAA tournament teams tonight in an NCAA intensity type game,” Gottfried said.