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Doom Struggling Irish
By Alan Tieuli
NEW YORK (IE) – The first three teams disqualified
from contention for the Big East Tournament championship in 2003 – Virginia Tech,
Rutgers…and Notre Dame.
Based on recent performances, that sounds about right.
Make no mistake, Notre Dame is an NCAA Tournament team but at this
moment it is also the worst defensive squad in its league.
That was evident against Wednesday as the Irish ruined your lunch break with
an 83-80 defeat to
"They got us figured out," Irish coach Mike Brey admitted later, referencing his Big
East's coaching brethren. "It's good to get out of this league."
The Irish, so promising in December, continued their calendar year
2003 stumble. No Big East team has allowed
more than 80 points in five consecutive games, as Notre Dame has. It's highly unlikely any team qualifying for
the NCAA Tournament will go in with a poorer "last 10" record than the
And, equally frustrating, the young men from
"I thought this was going to be our year to make a run. I had that feeling," said senior Matt Carroll, wearing a look of exhaustion and
bewilderment after a personally sub-par 14-point effort. "We just haven't had
much luck down here."
Luck had little to do with this performance. The Irish were flat out miserable in the first-half
and found themselves down 23 (51-28) with just under 19 minutes to play in the game. A
furious rally closed the deficit to two points, and freshman Torin Francis (19 points, six rebounds) was at the
line for two shots with 10.4 seconds left.
The 19-year-old missed both, and after
"Perhaps we're not doing something right, (but) I
don't know what it is," said sophomore point guard Chris Thomas, who had 18 points and nine assists. "We're playing soft."
Soft can be defined easily in this one.
In the first-half the Irish had 15 rebounds total while allowing 13 offensive rebounds to the 16-12 Johnnies. For the game,
The latter stat shouldn't surprise you by now. Notre Dame is a distant 14th (last) in
the Big East in three-point defense and with this performance has now allowed league
opposition to make a staggering 40-percent of all treys.
"We're overhelping at times and leaving the wrong
guys," said Carroll.
Simply analysis, but difficult to fix.
Notre Dame, 22-9 overall after an 18-3 start, will try to solve that problem over the next week as it
prepares in quiet solitude for the NCAA Tournament. The
Irish traveling party leaves
"We want to be playing," said senior Dan Miller, who had 18 points and nine rebounds,
but also some serious defensive lapses. "We're
very upset about this loss and we're going to have a lot of time to think about it. We didn't want that."
"We just got to do a better job on the backboards," said
Brey, noting his team's 25-15 first-half glass hammering. "That was