Irish light up court in 107-96 win over Siena
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
The excitement is running high for Notre Dame men's basketball.
First-year head coach Matt Doherty has led the Irish to a 2-0 start and the semi-finals of the Pre-season NIT with a 107-96 win over Siena last night.
"The balance tonight was key because they really couldn't focus on any one player," sophomore forward Troy Murphy said. "They opened it up so much for Harold [Swanagan] and I to operate inside by their three-point shooting and that's what's been winning games for us — their three-point shooting."
Murphy, sophomore forward David Graves, senior guard Martin Ingelsby and freshman guard Matt Carroll spread out the offense for Notre Dame, all scoring in double figures.
Murphy set the tempo for the Irish early, scoring seven of the first 10 points for the blue and gold to put them up 10-7.
The Saints used a full-court press against the Irish, which forced 11 turnovers in the first 11 minutes, keeping the game close.
"I was disappointed that we didn't execute, but we'll work those kinks out," Doherty said. "I think we've got to just be strong handling the ball and be more decisive."
The Irish took the lead for good with nine minutes remaining in the first half, but senior forward Marcus Faison kept the Saints in the contest. He was the go-to guy for Siena, putting up 13 points and snagging four boards in the first stanza.
At halftime, the Irish were ahead 50-41, thanks to nine players scoring in the even Irish attack.
Several freshmen had significant playing time, much more than in Notre Dame's 59-57 win at Ohio State Tuesday.
"It's not by design," Doherty said. "I did it because at Ohio State it was the first game, it was on ESPN. I didn't want the freshmen to get rattled. I wanted ballhandlers. I wanted to control the ball as best I could."
Carroll was a huge factor for the Irish, scoring eight points in a two-minute span in the second half.
He shot seven of nine from the field, including two for two from three-point range.
"We left Matt Carroll open for a ton of shots," Siena head coach said. "It seemed he made 100 of those tonight. To me, he was the unexpected contributor tonight."
Carroll hardly played at Ohio State and did not score the entire game.
"He [Doherty] told me before the game that we had two point guards in there that had a lot of experience, and that it was my first game and national television. He was more comfortable and confident with them in the game," Carroll said. "I was a little surprised, but I can't dwell on that. When I got my chance to go in there, I'm going to be ready, no matter when it is or for how long it is."
Carroll's big plays gave Notre Dame a 17-point lead and helped rile the crowd.
"I think when you're tired, a little bit beat up, when they [the crowd] got going, that gave us some extra burst of energy that we needed," Doherty said. "The kids feel so good because the students are reacting positively to them."
"It's like our sixth man out there," Ingelsby said of the crowd.
The Saints started to come back several times in the second half, but the Irish never let them get too close.
"Tonight they shot the ball exceptionally well," Hewitt said. "I thought there were a couple times in the second half when we had them on the brink, but we didn't make a good shot here, didn't make a good decision there. Overall, I thought they hung tough when we made our runs at them."
With 10:14 to go in the game, the Irish were leading 81-63. Siena mounted a seven-point comeback behind a Faison runner, an Isaiah Stewart shot and a Jim Cantamessa three-pointer.
By 7:29, the lead had been cut to nine.
"Tonight I was real impressed because Siena made a couple runs at us, cut it to nine, and our kids didn't flinch," Doherty said. "I never felt like they were getting nervous."
Graves and Murphy were the major figures in the closing minutes. Graves scored nine of the final 24 points, and Murphy added seven.
Murphy was the leading scorer for the Irish with 31. Freshman Jere Macura pulled down seven rebounds, and senior point guard Jimmy Dillon dished off 12 assists. The Irish host St. Francis in a non-tournament game Sunday at 2 p.m., before facing the winner of today's Arizona-New Mexico State game in Madison Square Garden Wednesday.
"The biggest thing we have to battle is distraction," Doherty said.
uNotre Dame scored more than 100 points for the first time since a 101-98 victory over Syracuse in February 1992, the first year of the John MacLeod era.
uThe bench contributed 30 points for Notre Dame.
uThe Irish shot 60 percent compared to the Saints' 44 percent.
uMurphy was 15-18 from the foul line.
uSwanagan spread his talents, tallying nine points, six rebounds and four assists for Notre Dame.
All Sports Stories for Friday, November 19, 1999