One to Forget

On a night when even the introduction of the starting lineups couldn't go smoothly, the Irish hung on to defeat Wofford and finish the non-conference season at 9-2.

It was probably appropriate, in this game when nothing was coming easily for the Fighting Irish, that a player who hadn't attempted a free throw in over two games would be standing at the line with 12 seconds remaining needing both attempts to help ice the game.

But that didn't faze Torin Francis one bit. He calmly nailed both, and a superb defensive effort by him and his teammates over those last 12 seconds sealed a 74-71 nail-biting win and a seven-game win streak going into the Big East season.

"I felt like I had to do it," the senior said after the game. "I didn't want to go up there and be nervous. I know I can hit free throws, so I went up there with the mentality that I could hit them."

"I think it says a lot about him as a senior," Irish head coach Mike Brey said. "He hadn't been at the line and he really wasn't in a rhythm. They did a good job jamming and doubling him, and he threw it away a couple times. I'm very proud of him to step up and make them. There's no doubt he was very confident."

"Confident" would probably not describe the overall game impression, however. The Irish had a good first half with open looks as a result of good ball movement, but still couldn't pull away from the pesky Terriers. Then in the second half, Wofford turned up the defensive pressure while getting some shots of their own.

"There were too many great looks for Notre Dame in the first half," Wofford head coach Mike Young admitted. "They had six three-point baskets, and five of them were virtually uncontested. I didn't think we got locked in during the first half on the defensive end on how we wanted to guard Francis in the low post. So we decided to do the simple things."

With the entry passes denied, and Irish point guard Chris Quinn bottled up in a 2-12 shooting night, the Irish took to the wings. Russell Carter scored 11 of his career-high 16 points in the second half on drives to the hoop, including one rim-rocking baseline dunk that brought the crowd to its feet, and a number of high-pressure free throw opportunities. "Torin was sucking a lot of people in," the junior said, "and then he'd move away, which would leave it wide open. As soon as it opened up, I'd just attack the basket."

"Their speed took Quinn away," said Brey. "They got into him and got underneath him with smaller, quicker guys. I thought it was a good game for Russ because he had to make some plays while we had heat on us. For him to make free throws when we had heat ... he hadn't had to do that yet, so that was encouraging."

"That's what we need Russell to do out there," agreed Quinn. "We know he's capable of doing it, and it worked out great for us, especially in that stretch."

Also picking up the slack was freshman Kyle McAlarney, now shooting a torrid 17-24 in his last three games. "Kyle is really important," Brey said. "I feel bad for him because he had two tough turnovers in the second half, but he was fabulous for us. He's not afraid, and we've got to have him in there because it takes some pressure off."

But the Irish still needed every point, thanks to Howard Wilkerson's 27 points, two of which came in the final minute off one of those McAlarney turnovers to draw Wofford within one. "Wilkerson and Berg [are] two seniors who have meant a lot to our team for the four years I've been the head coach," Young said. "Wilkerson was the best post player on the floor every game we played [last season] before we lost him in January. To go nose-to-nose with Francis was pretty neat to watch."

Brey agreed. "He's really tough inside. He's such a good passer, when he kicks out and they hit threes, then you're going to be in trouble because they're going to have too many points. So you're going to have to eat some of those jump hooks." Top Stories