ND comes up short in Big East tourney to Miami
By BRIAN KESSLER
The third time wasn't a charm for the Irish Thursday night, as Notre Dame dropped a 61-58 contest to Miami at Madison Square Garden in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
The Hurricanes have now beaten the Irish three times this season and will move on to play St. John's in the semifinals tonight.
With 18.8 seconds left in the game, Notre Dame found itself in a familiar situation, and came away with a similar result. Two weeks ago at Miami, the Irish needed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to send the game to overtime. Troy Murphy's shot rimmed out. Thursday night, Notre Dame needed a two-point basket for the win. Once again, Murphy's shot rimmed out.
"When Troy goes up, I think it's in," first-year head coach Matt Doherty said. "You've got your best player taking an open shot. Granted it's a 3-point shot, but he is one of our best 3-point shooters. [When it misses] you think foul. Well that's what I'm thinking at the same time your gut gets ripped out."
But the Irish weren't able to get the foul. Following the miss, Miami point guard Vernon Jennings secured the rebound and fired a quick outlet pass to Elton Tyler who slammed it home with 0.8 seconds left.
"I was trying to finish the play," Tyler said. "We have a great defense, so after that, I knew we were going to get a stop on something like that."
Harold Swanagan's ensuing inbounds pass was batted down by Tyler and the Irish were sent packing.
Miami jumped out to a 23-16 lead with 9:21 left in the first half, but Notre Dame battled back and a thunderous slam dunk by Swanagan tied the game at 28. The Hurricanes clung to a slim three-point margin at the break.
"In the second half we knew we had to come out and play harder because we felt they outplayed us in the first half even though the score didn't indicate that," Jennings said. "In the second half, we came out, stepped up our pressure and tried to control the game."
After a technical foul on Doherty, Miami extended its lead to nine points four minutes into the second half, but Notre Dame came storming back with a 9-0 run to tie the game at 53. But the Irish saw it slip away as Murphy's shot slipped out.
"We gave it a run and came up against the best team in the league," Doherty said. "We were right there. The kids could have given up, but they didn't. I'm real proud of these kids."
The Irish struggled with Miami's tough man-to-man defense in all three meetings.
The Hurricanes held Big East player of the year Murphy to just 15 points, but couldn't keep him off the boards, as he grabbed 16 rebounds.
"They're the best defensive team in the Big East," Murphy said. "They're physical, they're strong and they play really hard. We had trouble with them all three times. Tonight was no different."
Johnny Hemsley paced Miami with 17 points and Tyler added 14. Jennings dished out 11 assists.
David Graves had 14 points in a losing effort for Notre Dame and Matt Carroll added 11.
The Irish, however, who usually live by the 3-pointer, shot just 24 percent (6-for-25) from beyond the arc.
"I think it was a hard fought game," Graves said. "The two teams played well. Some things went our way and others didn't. But they're a great defensive team. By far the best in the conference."
All Sports Stories for Friday, March 10, 2000