Irish face talented, young Wildcats in NIT
By BRIAN KESSLER
Notre Dame traveled to New York Monday afternoon to prepare for its semifinal showdown with No. 9 Arizona in the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden.
The Irish will look for their third win of the season over teams that participated in the NCAA Tournament last year. Notre Dame is off to a surprising 3-0 start after recording wins over Ohio State, Siena and St. Francis (Pa.).
Sophomore David Graves led the Irish to a 59-57 victory over the Buckeyes last Tuesday in the first round with a game-winning shot at the buzzer. Graves finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, while fellow sophomore Troy Murphy had 21 points and 12 boards.
Notre Dame returned home Thursday to knock off Siena 107-96 behind a 31-point effort from Murphy. Graves and freshman Matt Carroll chipped in with 16.
In regular season action, Murphy scored a career-high 35 points to lift Notre Dame to a 73-60 win over St. Francis.
The trip to New York will be a homecoming for first year head coach Matt Doherty, who grew up on Long Island and has family in the area. Doherty has also had success in the Garden, leading Kansas to Preseason NIT titles in 1993 and '97 as an assistant coach with the Jayhawaks.
The Wildcats have also enjoyed success in the NIT. They won the 1990 and '95 tournaments and have their eyes set on a third consecutive title.
Arizona advanced to the semifinals with a 88-69 win over Kansas State and a 84-60 victory over New Mexico State. All five starters are averaging double digits in scoring. Forward Michael Wright leads the team in scoring (17.5 points per game) and rebounding (11.5 boards per game). Arizona starts two freshman guards in Gilbert Arenas (12 points per game) and Jason Gardner (13 points per game, 6 assists per game).
This will be the fourth time the two teams have met. The Wildcats lead the series 2-1.
Wednesday's game will be the second time Arizona and Notre Dame have met in a Preseason NIT semifinal game. The first came in 1990, when Arizona won 91-61.
Tip off is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, and the game will be televised on ESPN.
Notre Dame plays Friday in either the consolation game or the final of the NIT against Kentucky or Maryland. The regular season schedule resumes on Nov. 30 at Indiana.
u Notre Dame is off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1988. The 1988-89 season was also the last time the Irish earned an NCAA Tournament berth.
- The Irish scored 107 points in their victory over Siena in the second round. It was the first time they'd reached the century mark since 1992.
- The Irish received 18 votes in the most recent ESPN/USA Today college basketball poll, which ranks them 31st in the nation.
- This is the third time the Irish have participated in the Preseason NIT. Notre Dame advanced to the semifinals in 1990.
- Murphy was named the first Big East player of the week this season for his role in Notre Dame's first three victories.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, November 23, 1999