Aloha Means 'Goodbye Mediocrity'

It appears Notre Dame was not a one-year wonder. The defending Big East division champs are bringing back to campus another -- albeit more modest -- trophy and are off to their best start in 22 seasons. Mike Brey's team is deeper, faster and, so far, flawless. Alan Tieuli reports on the Hawaii Pacific Tournament champions.

Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

November 25, 2001

Irish Discover Paradise
(And a Title) in Hawaii

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com NewsService

The renaissance of the Notre Dame men’s basketball program continues.

The Irish are 5-0 for the first time since the 1979-80 season after blasting Monmouth tonight, 85-48, in the final of the Hawaii Pacific Thanksgiving Tournament in Honolulu.  Notre Dame gets to bring home healthy tans and an in-season championship trophy – its first since winning the four-team Sugar Bowl Tournament in 1992.

“I can remember my freshman year when we were playing the 7th  vs. 8th game in Anchorage,” said senior forward David Graves, who scored 15 second-half points in helping blowing the game open. “This is more fun and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Senior power forward Ryan Humphrey was named the tournament MVP after finishing with 23 points on this night and a 24.6 average over the three nights.  He scored his first basket six seconds into the opening game and never seemed to let up.

The Irish have yet to be challenged in a contest this season.  Through five games they are outscoring their opponents by a Duke-ish average of 90-58.  The opposition has not been top-caliber, but Notre Dame’s play has been sensational in all aspects.

Humphrey hit eight-of-10 shots – including a three – to lead the offensive effort.  Graves and Matt Carroll each finished with 15 points and point guard Chris Thomas had nine.

“I was really proud of how our guys reacted offensively,” said Brey, who then glanced at the stat sheet with pride. “Look at this, 28 assists tonight.  I just love the way we move it around and get everyone involved.”

The Irish, wearing stylish new gold uniforms and going nine deep during prime time, looked fresh throughout the contest and probably should award a game ball to conditioning coach Tony Rolinski.  Almost from the opening tip, Notre Dame was a step quicker in the heat than its New Jersey foe.

“I like where we are defensively,” said head coach Mike Brey. “We’re paying attention to the things that are important, and it’s paying off right now.”

The Irish trailed briefly early in the contest, 5-4.   But Carroll hit a pair of threes and a toe-on-the-stripe two to fuel a 16-4 run that put the Irish ahead to stay.  Humphrey had 12 points at the half, Carroll 10 and Chris Thomas seven as the Irish led, 36-23.

Humphrey had three baskets before the first media timeout in the second-half and Graves began to heat up with a pair of hoops and it was 50-31 with 14 minutes to play.  Lights out, especially with the way the Irish were locking down Monmouth and keeping the Hawks off the boards.   Northeast Conference MVP Rashaan Johnson was a non-factor with eight points.

“For Johnson to only score eight after getting 30 against Vanderbilt, that’s great team awareness, “said Brey. “Between Chris Thomas, Torrian Jones and Chris Markwood, we just wore him out.”

Count Monmouth coach Dave Calloway among the believers that this Notre Dame is for real.

“Their offense is better than last year,” he said. “They get out in transition a little bit better and their freshman guard is going to be very good.”

Monmouth had an electrifying come-from-behind victory in the Northeast Conference championship game last year and then easily handled Vanderbilt Saturday night.  But the West Long Branch, N.J. Hawks were physically overmatched on this night.

“Notre Dame is just stronger and more athletic than we are up front,” said Calloway.

“This tournament is a lot like the Cincinnati game last year,” said Brey. “We all remembered it and it gave us confidence all season.  This weekend makes me feel better as we approach the DePaul-Indiana-Miami week.”

The Irish go for six in a row Wednesday night at home versus Army.  In this year of scheduling dangerously, it will be the last contest at the Joyce Center with the students present until the Jan. 19 non-conference showdown with Kentucky.

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THE NOTEBOOK: Graves, Carroll and Thomas joined Humphrey on the 10-man All-Tournament team……Six days in paradise come to an end.  Immediately after the game, the Irish were transported to the airport and boarded a 10:35 p.m. flight home.  The team and staff are scheduled to arrive back on campus at 4 p.m. Monday.   They’ll have one day to prepare for Wednesday’s home contest with Army, the start of a three-game in seven-day stretch that includes the first two TV games of the season – Saturday in Chicago versus DePaul (FoxSportsNet) and Tuesday, Dec. 4 at Indiana (ESPN)…….Jones was the most distinguished of the four subs who saw significant action in this one, hitting the boards hard with a career high 10 rebounds.  He also scored seven points in 18 outstanding minutes……For the record, Notre Dame has not won three games in three days since Jan. 2-4, 1923 when the Irish won consecutive road tilts at Northwestern (20-13), Iowa (24-23) and Armour Institute (40-20)…….Vanderbilt (69-57 over Chattanooga) took third-place in this quiet little tournament, Hampton (83-76 over Hawaii Pacific) was fifth and Akron (90-56 over woeful Liberty) finished seventh……Notre Dame entered the Monmouth game essentially with six players averaging double figures in scoring – Humphrey 25.0, Graves 16.5, Carroll 14.0, Swanagan 10.0 and Jere Macura 9.75.   The last time the Irish went through an entire season with five players averaging in double figures was the outstanding 1976-77 team that finished ranked 10th.  Dave Batton, Toby Knight, Bruce Flowers, Rich Branning and Don “Duck” Williams all averaged between 10.7 and 18.1 points per tilt.  Five members of that squad, including defensive whiz Billy Hanzlik, went on to play in the NBA…..Looking ahead to when the tests get tougher, Notre Dame has not beaten DePaul and Indiana in the same season since 1988-89.

 

(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes and can be reached at aatandsonspr@aol.com)

 


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