In a game the Irish desperately needed, Brey's boys took down Providence, 81-78, in front of a small but loud Joyce Center crowd.
If Brey would have worn a tie, it would have hung looser than retired Temple coach John Chaney's. Both teams were desperate for a win, especially the Irish coming off two heartbreaking losses and dropping out of the polls for the first time in nine weeks. It showed in Brey's demeanor all evening. When Notre Dame was down double-digits in the first half, to Russell Carter's three with 17 minutes to go for the team's first lead, the Irish coach was in high gear the whole time.
"I'm tired, I'm exhausted, I'm tired man.," Brey said. "I needed a sub."
Only a few times in Brey's seven-year tenure at Notre Dame, has he ever been this riled up for a game. A loss in this contest would have put the Irish (19-6, 7-5) real close to the NCAA Bubble. One that has busted on him and his team quite frequently over those years.
"He revved it up a little, he was in your face a little more and we needed that," said senior guard Colin Falls, who had a team high 16 points. "We needed to get back to some of the preseason things we were concentrating on and we did. I think we were better defensively tonight because of it."
"He was really amped up and we needed this win," freshman point guard Tory Jackson stated. "Him giving us energy kind of spread throughout the team. He did a great job of keeping us focused. We had high energy, but he kept everything level and it showed out there on the floor."
It really showed in the second half. Providence (15-9, 5-6) led 42-38 at the break, but the Irish buckled down defensively after Brey kind of got on them in the locker room. Tied at 55 with 12:21 remaining, Notre Dame went on a 14-4 run over the next nine minutes to pretty much put the game in hand. The Friars went eight-straight possessions during that stretch without a single point.
A hip-flexor forced Russell Carter to come off the bench. He played just eight minutes in the first half, also getting into foul trouble. The 6-foot-4 guard was a different player in the second half, hitting 4-of-5 shots including two treys during the key run, looking like a Big East Player of the Year candidate. He finished with 15 points, one of five Irish players in double figures.
"We needed a couple shots and in the first half Colin was hitting them," Carter said. "I got a couple openings and I shot them and took advantage."
With the way conference third-place team Marquette is struggling, the Irish have a chance to take advantage of the rest of their schedule and earn a first-round bye in the Big East tournament. The top-four teams get the first round off, and Notre Dame currently sits in fifth place, a game behind Louisville. The Irish own the tie breaker over the Cardinals, and also own it over the other two 7-5 teams, Syracuse and West Virginia.
With games remaining at Cincinnati and Rutgers, and home contests against DePaul and Marquette, if the Irish win out, they should easily find themselves with one of the bye positions.
They just have to play like they did against Providence. The Irish shot 50.9 percent for the game, and out rebounded the Friars, 32-30.
"It was a big game," Brey said. "We played the way we practiced. We needed to come back. We got healthy over the weekend. We got into a little bit of two-a-days Monday and Tuesday. I love this group. They've always been there and understand, and they knew what was on the line."
The intensity Brey had on the Irish bench, he oozed it all week during those two-a-days.
"He wanted this one bad and I think we did too," Falls said.