March 2, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – At halftime, Irish coach Matt Doherty issued a challenge.
“I challenged their manhood at halftime,” Doherty said.
It took his team a better part of the second half to respond to that challenge. The Irish found themselves down by as many as 16 in the game. Notre Dame managed to rally but Syracuse held on to the win, 73-71.
“We played hard, but with a team as good as Syracuse, you can’t let them get a big lead like they were able to build on us,” sophomore David Graves said. “We don’t have any quit in us. It came down to the final few plays, and unfortunately we didn’t get the best of them.”
Going into the locker room, the Irish found themselves down by 14 points. Syracuse’s Etan Thomas made it a point to show the Irish this game was over when he slammed home another basket, making the lead 16.
“You have to give them a lot of credit,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “They were in a big hole and they are a young team. They just kept coming back, making plays and making shots.”
Notre Dame started to make their big run with a little under nine minutes left to play. Freshman Jere Macura rallied his team with a huge 3-pointer to cut the lead to ten. On the next offensive possession, Macura gets fouled. He sinks one but misses the other. Fellow freshman Mike Monserez scrambles for the rebound and the Irish set up their offense.
After grabbing the clutch rebound, Monserez works himself free for a huge 3-pointer, cutting the lead to six. On the next offensive possession, Dillon drills home a huge three to cut the lead to three with just over two minutes to play. Notre Dame had risen to answer Doherty’s challenge.
“This is the most physical game I have seen in the league this year,” Boeheim said. “We are not normally this physical.”
The physical play went back and forth for the next minute. With 44.1 seconds left, sophomore David Graves tips in his own miss to the cut the lead to two points. On the next possession Graves appeared to block Ryan Blackwell’s shot but gets called for the foul.
The crowd made their feelings towards the refs known. When Graves got called for the foul, a student threw a plastic water bottle on the court. The referees assessed Notre Dame a technical foul because it was the third time someone threw something on to the floor.
“I don’t like to see that,” Boeheim said about the crowd problems. “I don’t want to see that. I don’t know what the technical was for.”
“We should not have been in that position in the first place,” Doherty said. “It is our fault. If we had played in the first half, like we did in the second half then we would have been up by ten points and it would not have mattered.”
Blackwell sank two of his four free-throw attempts, making the score, 68-72. Syracuse received the ball back and got fouled again. This time Damone Brown sinks one foul shot, extending the lead to five points.
Murphy managed to drill a three-pointer as time ran out. The Irish lost their third straight game and watched their record slip to 7-8 in the Big East and 16-13 overall.
“Our guys competed and hung in there against a very good basketball team,” Doherty said. “We can’t put ourselves in that position and that is disappointing.”
Murphy led the Irish with 20 points and six rebounds. Macura finished the game with 12 points and two rebounds.
Blackwell led Syracuse with 24 points and seven rebounds.
The Irish are set to play the Hoyas in their final regular season game on Saturday.