Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™
Floor Disappointed Irish
By Alan Tieuli
But, first, the Notre Dame basketball team has to hold up its end of
the bargain. It needs to play with defensive
intensity, offensive intelligence and character to upset a highly-rated
Just like Seton Hall did to the No. 10 Irish in this one. The 10-9 Pirates, winners of five of their six five
Big East Conference games, never trailed the final 24:53 of the contest in a 78-72 victory
before 9,024 surprised and satisfied North Jersey fans.
Notre Dame's six-game Big East Conference winning streak – which
started with a Jan. 12 home victory over these same Pirates – ended and the Irish
also slipped a game in the loss column behind West Division leading Pittsburgh.
"That could cost us the Big East championship," said somber
point guard Chris Thomas, who left the
Meadowlands with 14 points and a bruised ego, courtesy of his Pirate counterpart, Andre Barrett.
The junior looked All-Big East, scoring 24 points with six sharp assists.
But, then again, Seton Hall could have been St. Peter's on this
night and it might not have mattered. The
Irish simply didn't defend. The hosts
shot 53-percent from the field (30-for-57) and the degree of difficulty on the shots was
"It's not like they were nailing them with a hand in their
face They were nailing them open," said
forward Dan Miller, who accounted himself well
with a Big East-career high 21 points. "We can't come out and expect a team to
Seton Hall made an alarmingly consistent 15-of-29 shots in the
first-half, 15-of-28 in the second, and five-of-seven overall from three-point line. Sophomore transfer Andre Sweet – a Duke transfer – looked
like Dahntay Jones (a Garden Stater from
The Pirates deserve praise for their performance, and Notre Dame
received a reminder that when it does not defend, it will get beat. The Irish have allowed the opposition to shoot
better than 50-percent four times this year, and lost all four – Creighton (.620),
Pittsburgh (.527) and Kentucky (.523) preceding this one.
"I don't remember us taking a charge or getting on the
floor for a loose ball," said head coach Mike
Brey. "And there were a lot of drives."
As a result, Notre Dame dropped to 18-4 overall. It will be able to move back into first in the West
– and likely sustain its Top 10 ranking – with a victory Sunday.
"This group has been great about learning from things and
bouncing back," said Brey. "The law of averages sometimes catches up with you."
There's really no positive news out of this one. On top of the less than ferocious defense, Notre
Dame struggled mightily offensively. Its
43-percent shooting percentage wasn't all that bad, but the Irish were in rush mode
often and didn't get to the foul-line.
In the six game Big East winning streak, Notre Dame attempted an
average of 36.3 free throws per game. In this
game, the Irish had just 13. They did not
achieve the bonus in the second half until the final 2.2 seconds.
"We had to have a good screen for every look," said Thomas.
"And we didn't have good screeners or good cutters. We didn't have a good offense period. When you combine that offense with a terrible
defense you are never going to win."
Thomas had 14 points and six assists, but also six turnovers. Matt
Carroll had, by his standards, a sub-par night with 16 points (six-for-16 shooting,
one-for-six on threes). Worse, however, the
pair couldn't provide an offensive calm.
"(Carroll) forced a few things to try and get us going,"
said Brey. "That's a Catch-22 with him and Chris. You got to let them go,
because they have jump started us. Tonight a
couple of times they forced some things and it hurt us."
One of those times came at the 15-minute mark of the second-half. Down 49-44 after a Kelly Whitney basket, Carroll took a long jumper
with 29 on the shot clock. It missed and Seton
Hall converted on transition. Brey, usually
unflappable on the bench, clearly showed his displeasure.
Notre Dame did close to within 66-65 with remaining on a Carroll
lay-in off a terrific feed from Miller. But
Barrett hit the hoop of the game a minute later, a 26-foot three with the shot clock near
expiration. The Irish never again got closer
All that was left was the student celebration on the floor of this
massive (20,029) facility, the last non-Dome to host a Final Four. It left Thomas with a nasty déjà vu.