Irish Get Confidence Back

Notre Dame has won four of its last five games and is feeling confident heading down the stretch. With three games left before the Big East Tournament, the Irish still have a chance to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

It is difficult to imagine a team that went nearly a month without a win having confidence on its side toward of the regular season, but that is exactly the case for Notre Dame right now.

After losing seven straight games in January and February, the Irish have won four of their last five and have worked themselves back into the NCAA Tournament discussion.

But while Notre Dame (16-11, 7-8) came into its game against Rutgers on Wednesday night feeling good, it still had to fight off a sluggish start to pull out the 70-65 victory.

"We knew we weren't playing our best, but we were still very confident," said Kyle McAlarney. "The talk and the chatter was still lifting each other up."

Luke Harangody said that the Irish know they can count on each other.

"Every guy on this team is confident in one another to hit shots and get big rebounds," he said. "That's what we did, we might not have had it going on the offensive end, but on the defensive end we counted on guys to get up in each other and grab key, important rebounds."

With only a couple of games at the Joyce Center left in his career, McAlarney sensed his team feeding off of the building.

"I kind of felt in the huddles and in the locker room that it was almost like last year whereas no matter how many points we're down here, this is our home court and we're coming out with the win," he said. "We were very confident and kind of cocky that you're not getting out of here with the win."

Head coach Mike Brey wanted his players to enjoy the win, even if it was an ugly one.

"I said, ‘Celebrate it, man. This is really good, you had to gut one out.' We just wanted to get to 7-8 in the league and be in the discussion and make it interesting," said Brey. "They've responded well to putting themselves in position. We've got work to do still, but it's all doable."

Even after trailing by eight points at halftime, the Irish insisted that they never had visions of their season crashing down.

"If you do that, a lot of pressure, you play tight like I've been playing the last couple of games and when you're playing tight, things don't work out the way you want them to," Tory Jackson said. "You don't think about that at all, you try not to think about it."

Jackson is notoriously difficult on himself.

"I always beat myself up for every little thing, any little thing," he said. "If I pass the ball and my teammate doesn't get an open shot, I beat myself up for it. Any little thing and I've got to stop doing that because it shows."

Jackson was especially hard on himself after a poor performance in last weekend's win at Providence, even as he was excited for the rest of his team.

"Providence was a reality check for me and [against Rutgers] I just felt like I could go out there and be confident, go out there and just play my game," he said. "The team has been playing the game, they've been confident, everybody else has been confident. I feel like I've been down on myself and I hate that.

"I'm the type of person where I beat myself up for every single thing, I've got to lose that attitude because it shows on the court. I've got to lose the attitude and just go out there and continue to play confident."

Brey said that Notre Dame is going to need contributions from its point guard, who scored 18 points against the Scarlet Knights.

"He needs to score for us, there's no question about it, he's got to score the basketball for us. He's first setting the table for our guys and getting us in transition," said Brey. "He has a great sense of if we are maybe struggling a little bit offensively, going and making a play… We're not telling him not to score, he just doesn't have to force it, he needs to set the table first."

Jackson is excited to feel confident again, but knows that the team is bigger than him.

"I've got to be consistent for us. [Wednesday] was a good win for us," he said. "My individual stuff, it doesn't really stand out to me at all, I was more concerned with how we would defend and how we would bounce back after the first half.

"Me getting back in a rhythm is good, but us continuing to win and building on it is worth more than me." Top Stories