Notre Dame plays host to Siena in second round of Preseason NIT
By BRIAN KESSLER
When Matt Doherty took the head coaching job at Notre Dame last March, he promised to return Irish basketball to its glory days.
After one game, he has done just that.
Notre Dame's shocking 59-57 victory over No. 4 Ohio State Tuesday night has Irish fans eagerly awaiting tonight's showdown with Siena in the second round of the Preseason NIT.
"We went into one of the top teams in the country's place and we won," sophomore forward Troy Murphy said. "It's a great feeling, but we have to get prepared for tomorrow. We have to put forth the same type of effort."
Doherty conducted a three and a half hour long practice Wednesday and has his players in the right mindset.
"If you think you've done something big yesterday, you haven't done much today," Doherty said to motivate his team. "If we enjoy this too much, we'll be licking our wounds come Thursday night."
Doherty and the Irish had just Wednesday to prepare for the Saints, but the first-year coach hasn't wasted any time.
"I got back to my house at 5 in the morning [from Ohio State] and got up at 7 and we started grading film at 8:30," he said. "I'm always cautiously optimistic. I try to enjoy the moment, but I'm always looking ahead. I'm looking, first and foremost, to getting this team better."
Doherty and the Irish have shown tireless committment to reaching their potential as a team.
"I want to get better," he said. "We missed a lot of box outs last night; we didn't execute secondary break like I would like and we're going to get after it. If I have to I'll threaten them. It seems like the number 304 is in the back of their head. That's 304 crossings they did the day after the Marathon game and I don't think they'll want to do that Friday."
A win over Siena tonight would send the Irish to Madison Square Garden for semifinals of the NIT on Nov. 23. The Irish, however, aren't looking past the Saints.
"They're darn good," Doherty said. "Paul Hewitt does a good job, they're experienced. A lot of the things they do well, we struggle with like the press offense."
"We can't look past Siena," junior Martin Ingelsby said. "They went to the NCAA Tournament. They have a lot of good players and like to play up tempo basketball. We have to go out there, stick to our game plan and hopefully play well."
Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Jamming the Joyce
A big crowd is expected to be on hand for tonight's game, but that won't change the effort the Irish put forth.
"A jammed Joyce Center can help us a lot with our defensive intensity and distracting them, no question," Doherty said. "I hope we have a filled house, but if we have just 100 people there, we're going to play hard."
Shot heard 'round the world
Graves recalled some fond memories after draining the 15-foot jumper that lifted the Irish to victory.
"In your backyard with a wooden backboard and the rim bent to the right, and you've got you're one little spotlight at 11 o'clock at night. That's what I did," Graves said. "That's what everyone has done. You just count down. I was lucky to have the ball. I looked up at the clock at it said 5.7 seconds, I was 35 feet away from the basket, I had to do something with it. Michael Redd gave me my left, I saw Harold sneak up and I went off the screen and hit the jumper."
Doherty and the Irish were overwhelmed with words of encouragement after the win over the Buckeyes.
"When you get the win all of a sudden people take notice," he said. "Everyone today, the kids were talking about all the emails they got. I got 43 emails. I got faxes from Carolina and Kansas. Boy, it's exciting, but we've got to put that on the shelf. We've got work to do today, but I don't want to be a one hit wonder. I want to build on this and grow and ride this momentum into a win tomorrow."
He wouldn't trade the feeling of his victory for anything.
"Coach Williams used to say, you could put a million dollars on the floor, but would you trade it for the feelings, the facial expressions and the enjoyment you got from those kids? No way. You can't put a dollar value on those moments in the locker room after a big win."
Graves and the rest of the Irish were at a loss for words.
"We really couldn't say anything," he said. "We were all just smiling the whole time. We knew as a team that we could go in there and compete. And if we can compete with anyone, we have a chance to win. The family atmosphere in the locker room is just unbelievable and that can take you a long way."
All Sports Stories for Thursday, November 18, 1999