Irish head to MSG for NIT semifinals
By BRIAN KESSLER
The Notre Dame men's basketball team knew they were going to Madison Square Garden, but they didn't expect to be headed there this soon.
The Irish are guaranteed a spot in the Big East Tournament held annually at the Garden in March, but a 107-96 victory over Siena last night sends Notre Dame to the world's most famous arena next Wednesday to take on the winner of the New Mexico St.-Arizona game in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT.
"It's really special," head coach Matt Doherty said. "I've played in the Garden, I've been an assistant coach in the Garden and now I'm going to be the head coach of Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden. The hair is raising up on my arms as I speak. That's happened a lot these past few days."
Doherty has put Notre Dame basketball back on the map in a matter of two games. He already knocked off two NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago and has the Irish believing they can win.
"I think our confidence comes directly from coach Doherty. It's something we didn't have last year and there's a whole different attitude surrounding this team," said Troy Murphy, who had 31 points in Thursday's victory. "We think we can go out there every game and win. I know it wasn't that way last year. We think we can win and we're prepared to win. We play hard and that can be directly attributed to coach Doherty."
Doherty believes that instilling confidence in his players is the only way for his team can live up to its potential.
"I don't joke with them when I say that when we beat Ohio State, we're going to walk off the court and celebrate in the locker room. That's not games," Doherty said. "You have to have that mindset. We have to change their thinking. When we go into Ohio State, we have to be like we're Notre Dame and we plan on winning."
Doherty was so sure the Irish would beat Ohio State, he scheduled the team's travel arrangements around it.
"That's the reason we bussed back [from Columbus]," Doherty said. "We didn't want to wake up at five in the morning and catch a flight out of there because we're playing on Thursday [after we win]."
Doherty saw the confidence in his team in the final moments of the game against Ohio State.
"Late in the game if I didn't feel confident I would have called a timeout," Doherty said. "But I looked into those players eyes and knew at least we'd get a shot off."
Every Irish fan knew where that shot wound up.
All Sports Stories for Friday, November 19, 1999