by Kevin O'Neill
If I have learned nothing else about the 2012-13 Fighting Irish basketball team, I know to let them play through bad starts.
- They scored only 11 points in the first 13 minutes vs. Cincinnati in the conference opener before winning the road game by 6.
- They played poorly and trailed halftime vs. USF in Tampa before winning by 12 points.
- They were down by 8 with less than a minute to go vs. Louisville and won in 5 overtimes.
- They were behind at Pittsburgh by a 19-3 score but won by 9 points.
- They trailed St. John’s by 4 at halftime before rallying to a 26 point victory.
There are many things this team isn’t, but perhaps its biggest positive is that it’s resilient. It’s also very hard on its fans, but I now know that there is no need to start throwing things when they play poorly early in a game. That’s a particularly good approach for those of us who attend games in person.
So… Are you surprised that the Irish recovered from an early 17-4 deficit vs. Marquette Thursday night, challenged the Warriors, and eventually won the game? I am not.
“There really wasn’t any panic,” said Head Coach Mike Brey when asked about dealing with the early deficit early in Thursday’s Big East Tournament game against Marquette. “As a matter of fact, in the huddles when it was 17-4, (Pat) Connaughton kept saying, ‘it’s just like the Pitt game.’”
The team huddles weren’t all positive strokes and good karma.
“Coach just challenged us,” said Jerian Grant. “He even asked us if we were scared, and we took that personally.”
Connaughton went on to lead all scorers with 18 points, all three point baskets as his hot shooting from the previous evening continued; and the Irish won 73-65. Grant added 17 points, and Garrick Sherman came off the bench to score 16 points.
Sherman has toggled between doghouse resident and savior throughout the season. Last night he was a savior, scoring points as Jack Cooley’s dry spell continued and being a big part of the defense that held Chris Otule and Davante Gardner to 15 points combined. Otule alone had 16 points when the teams met in Milwaukee recently.
“Garrick Sherman was fabulous. I think we found another weapon here in March,” said Brey. “Tom Knight, Zach (Auguste)… Maybe it wasn’t as much a night for Zach; but you know what, tomorrow night could be. It’s a great luxury to have all four of those guys.”
Brey also praised Cooley who has been struggling lately. “Jack Cooley, I’m really proud of him because it wasn’t a real good night, but he kept trying, and he kept plugging, and he made some big, big plays for us.”
No play was bigger than his offensive rebound with 3:37 left in the game after Marquette had cut the lead to four points. Cooley spotted Connaughton at the arc and threw him a perfect pass that was converted into a three point basket. The game was not over at that point, but the Warriors never got close enough to make Irish fans sweat again.
Who Thought That Was a Good Idea?
Before shock, before revulsion, my first reaction to Notre Dame’s new postseason uniforms was, “Who thought that was a good idea?”
In a brainstorming session, participants are supposed to come up with thirty ideas. In groups of ten, give or take an idea, the first ones are mundane, even boring. The second group consists of ridiculous ideas, jokes as much as anything, that get people into the spirit of brainstorming. Finally people get to the truly creative ideas. The last ten are new and interesting notions that get people excited to test and implement.
It looks to me like the team of people that was assigned the task of designing ND’s postseason uniforms stopped brainstorming at approximately fourteen ideas.
Someone must have stopped the conversation to say, “That’s great. Let’s go with that.” Others must have chimed in to agree. These are people who must not be allowed to vote, operate heavy machinery, or get tattoos. They should not be allowed to have careers in athletics administration or apparel design either, but apparently that ship has sailed.
Four in a Row
For what it’s worth, Notre Dame’s victory over Marquette on Thursday advanced the Irish to the Big East Tournament semifinal round. ND is the only team that has made it that far each of the last four years, but it has not advanced further.
“We wonder what it would be like to play on Saturday because our program has never played there,” said Brey.
Louisville, which has not lost since the five overtime game in South Bend a month ago, is the barrier the Irish must overcome if they are to play on Saturday. We’ve got to really control tempo,” said Brey.
Will we see “Burn” for the entire game?