New Hope for Irish

A tired-looking Mike Brey stepped up to the podium to address the media at his Thursday press conference. The Notre Dame head coach had reason to be a bit lethargic. After the Irish's 82-75 win over Providence, the team flew back after the game and then Brey had to rise early to meet the press. Despite a lack of sleep, he still understood the magnitude of Wednesday's win.

"It's pretty clear that with us handling our business and a combination of Villanova beating St. John's, it's clear that if we win (Saturday vs. DePaul), we'll go to New York City," Brey said. "There's no other outside forces at work here."

Notre Dame does control their own destiny for a trip to the Big East Tournament, a venture that was looking shaky after a home loss to Marquette last Saturday night. That loss sent the Irish to 4-10 and had them looking up at the conference standings for some help. Brey got his team together recently and made clear the dizzying number of ways that they still could make it to the Big Apple.

"I explained that to them on Sunday," Brey said. "We went through a lot of the scenarios and there's a lot of them. It still could be interesting. The one thing that is very clear, as disappointing as the Marquette loss was to us, we had control of our own destiny to New York City. Last night kept us in a position to do so. It comes down to a one-game shot on Saturday."

The Irish are now 5-10 in the conference and tied for 12th place in the Big East. Also tied for this spot is Providence and St. John's. Notre Dame's win last night meant a season sweep over the Friars and the Irish hold another tiebreaker over the Red Storm. Translation: they are in the driver's seat. The 12th seed in the league tournament plays the 5th seed. Currently, Pittsburgh, who beat Notre Dame in a double overtime thriller earlier in the season, would be the Irish's opponent.

The Irish are in this position because of some clutch late game play. This has usually been a sore spot for this team. Not so against Providence. Down 60-59 with seven minutes to go, it looked like the contest might be slipping away. But a crucial 9-0 run by the Irish squelched these fears and Chris Quinn hit some key shots in the closing minutes to secure the victory.

"I think we did a good job responding fearlessly to a situation like that," Brey said. "That's not always been the case. It's never too late to learn and never too late to make a run. That's what is great about our sport. That is something we need to build upon."

Another key to the victory was the defense on the Friars' Donnie McGrath. The Providence guard, playing his last game in the Dunkin Donuts Center, was held to nine points on 3-of-13 shooting. Defense is usually not the strong suit of the Irish. They rank second to last in the conference in scoring defense. But they held McGrath, the Friars leading scorer, in check.

"I think overall, Chris Quinn did a great job of really being on him," Brey said. "Overall, our team awareness was pretty good. Our big guys, all three of them, did a great job of switching out on all the ball screening they were doing. We've been taking away that one shot starting with (Quincy) Douby (of Rutgers). The sad thing is that we did a good job on Novak until a two or three minute stretch. That's why he is a great player. He can light you up from anywhere. I thought we were good with McGrath."


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