Ingelsby's final shot saves Irish
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
Associate Sports Editor
It could have been ugly.
Troy Bell and the Boston College Eagles chipped away at a nine-point Notre Dame lead until the Irish edge disintegrated and the Eagles pulled ahead 75-73 with two minutes, one second to go.
But the Irish refused to let the Eagles crack their composure. The Irish are busy making space on the Joyce Center wall for a Big East Championship banner, the first conference title ever by a Notre Dame men's basketball team, and a Boston College win would have gotten in the way of earning that banner.
"We have a championship-level team," said Irish coach Mike Brey. "Our guys really believe they are going to win the game."
So Notre Dame (18-6, 10-3 Big East) nudged its effort level into overdrive in order to come away with a 76-75 victory over Boston College (19-4, 10-3), its top competition for the league title.
The Irish got everyone involved in the upset of the No. 10 Eagles.
All-American forward Troy Murphy and sophomore guard Matt Carroll, who recorded his first ever double-double Wednesday, stayed in on the action down the stretch. Murphy, fouled before Notre Dame could inbound the ball with 1:28 to play, hit one of two free throws.
Carroll seized his 11th rebound in the final minute after BC's Kenny Harley missed a shot near the free throw line.
But two players who were quiet most of the night emerged from the backdrop to take center stage — senior point guard Martin Ingelsby and junior small forward David Graves.
Notre Dame called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left in regulation. The plan was to score off a set play, hopefully finding Murphy in the low post, but the Eagles' defense barricaded that option. Time was running out on Notre Dame with little wiggle room for a misfire.
Luckily, the 5-foot-11 Ingelsby knew just what to do. He took on the burden of securing the win himself, dribbling towards the hoop and pulling up at the left elbow for an off-balanced floater. The shot sailed through the net to make the score 76-75 Irish.
"He made a hard move toward the basket," said Boston College coach Al Skinner. "Those are the kinds of moves, sometimes, that win basketball games."
Following an Eagles timeout with 3.7 seconds to go, the Irish just needed to hold on. To cling to their lead, they'd need to blast Boston College's plan of letting loose Troy Bell, a candidate for Big East Player of the Year.
Graves let loose on Bell, knocking the ball away from the Boston College point guard near the Eagles' 3-point line. Ingelsby snared the bouncing ball at the buzzer as the Irish swiped the victory.
"You don't try to steal the ball, you just tap it, in those situations, because you don't want to get any contact," Graves said. "You just want him to bobble the ball, and luckily, he did."
The win, which followed a Sunday loss to Seton Hall, was Notre Dame's 18th, the most regular season victories since 1988-89. It pretty much erased any lingering doubts about Notre Dame locking up its first NCAA Tournament berth since the same year.
A 14-0 Irish run to start the second half shotgunned them into the lead. After trailing 39-34 at the intermission, Notre Dame burned right through Boston College's defenses.
"We kind of asked ourselves, `Why not us?'" said forward Ryan Humphrey. "Everybody felt that we played tentatively, we played kind of soft, and we came in at halftime and talked about what we'd have to do. We'd have to get the ball to certain players and commit to playing defense, and that's what we did."
Humphrey, still nagged by a sprained ankle last week, lit the spark on the Irish explosion with one of his game-high 14 rebounds and one of his six blocks. It was a big production for someone Brey was thinking about resting.
"I was even thinking about not playing him this morning. Maybe we just sit him out and get him healthy," Brey said. "Of course, at pre-game meal, he didn't want to hear any of that, and I wasn't going to wrestle him."
Harold Swanagan took Humphrey's cue by hitting a reverse lay-up and the ensuing free throw. The Irish then began their work of shutting down Kenny Harley and Kenny Walls, who combined for 27 points in the first period, but went scoreless in the second stanza. Switching from zone to man-to-man defense was a factor in that shutdown.
Ingelsby rebounded a failed Harley putback, taking it coastal, but dishing off to Humphrey at the last second. Humphrey hammered home the dunk, getting fouled in the process.
Carroll grabbed the long rebound, one of his 11 in the game, and sent it back through the hoop with a 3-pointer from the left wing. The Irish kept it up with an Ingelsby steal and another trey by Carroll.
"You see a guy who's a good shooter, but he's a complete basketball player," Brey said. "He was guarding Bell down the stretch."
At the Eagles' end, Murphy nabbed a rebound, and Humphrey tried to cap off the run by throwing a lob into Murphy. His pass was off, but the Irish were glad, as the toss dropped right through the net for a behind-the-arc shot, just the fifth of his career.
But Bell, who was quiet with just five points in the first half, brought his team back into it. He scored 10 in the second half, and Jonathan Beerbohm added nine.
"Never was he able to get on a roll that broke our backs," Brey said of Bell.
The Irish got the best of their Catholic school rivals in the end.
Murphy hit 13-of-18 free throws from the charity stripe to boost his team to victory, with Carroll's 17 points and Humphrey's 15 coming up big as well.
"Good teams rise to the occasion," Murphy said.
With three games remaining before the Big East Tournament, the Irish are close to a stranglehold on a West Division title. They rest two games ahead of Syracuse (20-6, 8-5) and three ahead of both Georgetown (20-6, 7-6) and West Virginia (16-8, 7-6), with the top two division finishers earning a first-round tournament bye.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, February 22, 2001