Sweet Dreams for Humphrey

While you were sleeping Ryan Humphrey had the type of half most players only dream about. The Irish captain scored 26 points in the first-half, leading Notre Dame to an easy first-round tournament victory over Hawaii Pacific. It was Humphrey's season debut and a contented Mike Brey said later, "We feel whole now." IrishEyes Managing Editor Alan Tieuli reports.

Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

November 24, 2001

Humphrey Finds Paradise
In Hawaiian Debut

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com NewsService

While you were sleeping last night Ryan Humphrey had the game of his dreams.

Humphrey scored a basket six seconds into the contest, a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, and had a career-high 26 points by intermission.  He finished with 31 in leading Notre Dame to an easy 98-58 victory over host Hawaii Pacific in the opener of the Hawaii Pacific Thanksgiving Classic in Honolulu.

The 3-0 Irish now meet Tennessee-Chattanooga in the semifinals of the tournament with tip-off set for 6:30 p.m. Hawaii time, 11:30 p.m. Eastern.  That's just about the time the Irish-Stanford football game will be finishing, so it's a sweet doubleheader for Notre Dame Nation.

Humphrey's previous career high had been 24 at Vanderbilt last December 2, but he had been in a prolonged shooting and scoring slump for the Irish.  He had not scored more than 18 points in a game in calendar year 2001 and only averaged 11.5 points over the last 18 games last season.  He only made half of his shots in five of those 18 games and, more troubling, was also a team leader in mood swings. 

But the 6-8, 235-point senior made his 2001-02 debut a truly memorable one.  The NCAA forced him to sit out the first two games of this season after competing illegally in a Los Angeles summer league game, and Humphrey played with focus and purpose.

"I waited long enough," Humphrey said. "It's not fun watching other people play."

"Humphrey just killed us," said Hawaii Pacific coach Tony Sollitto. "We had nobody that could stop him."

Notre Dame struggled early and trailed the Division 2 Sea Warriors 18-15 at the 10-minute mark of the first-half.  But Humphrey scored 12 of his points in the final seven minutes of the half as the Irish exploded with a 22-6 run.  The beneficiary of nice inside looks from point guard Chris Thomas (13 assists), Humphrey played the entire half above the rim and complemented his inside work with a trio of jumpers and even made four-of-six free throws.  He finished the half having made 10 of 12 shots, an amazing effort considering he has never had more nine field goals in any collegiate game.

"It was just good to be whole again," said coach Mike Brey. "With Ryan out there with us at practice the last couple of days, it felt like Oct. 13 all over again.  It's good to play with our entire team.

"I was very anxious about this one," said Brey. "We had to be ready.  Remember, two of our players (Harold Swanagan, David Graves) experienced a loss to a host team at Alaska-Anchorage as freshmen.  This game had the potential to be the same thing, with a bunch of experienced JC guys, their coach retiring at the end of the year.  This was clearly their season."

The Sea Warriors – an NAIA power for two decades before moving into Division 2 – will need to look elsewhere for a season highlight.  The Irish came out firing on all cylinders in the second-half and with 10 minutes remaining in the game had built a 39-point (79-40) lead.  Over 18 minutes of basketball the Irish had outscored Hawaii Pacific 55-16, turning a 24-24 nailbiter into one of the most one-sided games outside of South Bend in recent history.

In fact, the last time Notre Dame won a game away from the JACC by more than 30 points was Feb. 22, 1986 – a 126-73 blasting of Miami (Fla.).

The Irish have won their first three games this season by a combined 112 points with all three of the victories being by 30 points or more.  Chattanooga should provide a little more competition and, if not, a potent and revenge-minded Vanderbilt team will probably be waiting in Sunday's final.

After being out-of-this-world his first two games, Thomas showed a chink in his armor in this one, hitting just one of 10 shots.  But, amazingly, he did not turn the ball over again and now does not have a turnover in more than 70 minutes of basketball, dating back to the New Hampshire game.

Graves had 17 points, Matt Carroll contributed 15 and Jere Macura hit all four of his shots in an outstanding team effort.  The Irish shot 55-percent from the floor and had a 49-37 rebounding edge.

"We had to learn to play differently tonight with Ryan in there," said Brey. "And we had a lot of guys willingly giving the ball up.

"Ryan came in with a lot of pent-up energy and we certainly welcomed him back," Brey continued. "But this is just one of three games here in this heat, and now we have to get some fluids into these guys."


THE NOTEBOOK:  Thomas continues to win the hearts and minds of Notr

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories