IRISH REWIND: Graves, Ingelsby deliver in big Notre Dame win
SOUTH BEND -- For all of Notre Dame's happiness and heroics throughout a wild second half surge, this one still had heartbreak written all over it.
Wednesday's game against No. 10 Boston College, where the advantage bounced from one team to the other 11 times, was sure to see a 12th leader take command and grab a win with little or no time remaining on the Joyce Center scoreboards.
Irish junior David Graves had other intentions.
Graves reached in as Troy Bell, the premier point guard in the Big East, kicked it into gear near mid-court.
Graves found just enough of the basketball to tip it away and send the Irish onto a 76-75 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 11,418.
The victory moves Notre Dame one step closer to a Big East West Division title. The Irish improved to 18-6 overall, 10-3 in the league with three games remaining.
Boston College, the third Top 10 team to fall to Notre Dame this season, is 19-4 and 10-3 atop the Big East's East Division.
"We have a championship-level team," said Irish head coach Mike Brey. "Our guys really believe they are going to win the game."
In what many considered a battle for league Player of the Year honors, it was Notre Dame's Troy Murphy who was able to get the better of Bell.
Murphy finished with a game-high 23 points, which included 13-for-18 from the foul line, to go with eight rebounds and three assists.
Bell, who for a while had as many field goals as fouls (three), started to click the final 10 minutes to help bring Boston College within one basket of the win. He finished with 15 points, five below his average and grabbed nine rebounds with four assists.
But it was the shot that Bell was not able to attempt that many will long remember.
The Irish edged ahead for good when senior point guard Martin Ingelsby connected on a double-pump leaning toss across the lane with 3.7 seconds remaining.
"He understands game situations and did a great job getting the shot up," Brey said.
Trailing by one after a Ryan Sidney 3-point play and one Murphy free throw, Notre Dame looked to drain the clock by running its basic offense. Matt Carroll and Graves would cross along the baseline. If neither was open, the ball would be pounded down to Murphy, who set up position on the low block.
With nothing developing and the crowd abuzz, Ingelsby took the game into his hands. He drove the lane and tossed up an off-balance shot that swished through. Seconds later as he was mobbed by teammates near mid-court, Ingelsby asked, "How 'bout that?'
"We were trying to get the ball inside to the big guys," Ingelsby said. "I saw a lane and took it."
Everyone knew that Boston College had plenty of time for one final look. So did Brey, who felt fortunate that the Eagles burned a timeout rather than rush the ball back down the floor.
The Irish were so busy celebrating that defending at that moment was not an option.
"If they got it in quick," Brey said, "I don't think we would have picked anybody up."
Following a 30-second timeout, Xavier Singletary inbounded the ball from the left of his own basket. Graves offered slight pressure as Singletary spied Bell to his right.
Bell snatched Singletary's pass and headed up the center of the court, looking to drive all 94 feet as time wound down. It brought back more than a few flashbacks of Danny Ainge and Brigham Young breaking Notre Dame's hearts in a 1981 NCAA Tournament game.
After pressuring Singletary, Graves turned to trail Bell. As the guard reached halfcourt, Graves' swipe got just enough of the ball to send it trickling toward press row as the final horn sounded.
"You don't try to steal the ball, you just tap it," said Graves. "He's a big player and in those kind of situations, he's going to take the big shots.
"I was just in the right place at the right time."
Continuing on his path, Bell would collide with Ingelsby, splitting a tooth on the right side of the Irish co-captain's mouth.
As fans stormed the court, Ingelsby had no inclination to check if one was a dentist.
Having sat too long in a 2-3 zone that allowed Boston College plenty of open looks the first half, Notre Dame would have to race back into yet another game, common during the team's recent eight-game winning streak.
The Irish allowed Eagles guards Kenny Harley and Kenny Walls to score 14 and 13 points respectively in a first-half that saw Notre Dame trail by as many as eight.
Man-to-man defense helped the Irish hold both scoreless in the second half and overcome 20 turnovers, which tied a season high.
"We came out in the second half and played tighter defense and got it done," said forward Ryan Humphrey, who finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots. "We said to ourselves, 'Why not us?'"
And why not Matt Carroll? Three days after the Irish finished 2-for-23 from 3-point range in the loss to Seton Hall, Carroll helped Notre Dame go 9-for-18 from beyond the arc Wednesday. He scored 17 points on 4-for-7 from deep with 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.
"He's a fearless guy," said Brey. "He's just a big-time all-around guard. He's such a momentum guy for us."
Afterward, Eagles coach All Skinner made sure to give credit to Notre Dame for battling back and finding a way to win the game. He made sure to praise Murphy's workmanlike effort in the blocks. But he also made sure that everyone in the post-game press conference recognized the discrepancy from the free-throw line.
Notre Dame shot 21-for-32 from the line. The Eagles went 10-for-14. No Boston College player, even Bell, made more than three trips to the line. Murphy made one fewer free throw (13) than the Eagles attempted.
"What does that say?" Skinner wondered. "He shot more free throws than my whole team. I don't know how that happened."
"They fouled me more than we fouled their whole team," he said.
The Irish trailed 39-34 at intermission but wasted little time catching up and moving ahead in the second half. Notre Dame ran off the stanza's first 14 points fueled by the outside shooting of Carroll and the inside dominance of Humphrey, whom Brey toyed with not even playing as his sprained right ankle continues to be a burden.
Two Carroll 3s and a monster Humphrey dunk helped the Irish carve out a six-point lead with less than three minutes elapsed in the second half. Murphy, who would register only one field goal the final 15:55, twice gave Notre Dame nine-point leads. The Irish would stretch the advantage to as many as 11, but could never put the Eagles to rest.
That's because Bell wouldn't let his team fold it up.
After tangling with Murphy near the B.C. free-throw line with 10:27 to play, Bell showed why he's considered the best overall player in the Big East. He slashed down the lane for scores, hit big baskets from deep and spearheaded an Eagle defense that kept the Irish on their heels all night.
In the end, there was nothing to show for it.
"Moral victories ended last season," Bell said. "I can't be happy about a loss. I'd rather win and learn than lose and learn."
Staff writer Tom Noie:
Each week during the regular season, NDI takes a look back at a memorable Irish game with a reprint of the game story that appeared in the South Bend Tribune.
This week's Irish Rewind appeared in the Feb. 21, 2001 edition following Notre Dame's 76-75 victory over Boston College, which included a big shot from current Irish assistant coach Martin Ingelsby. The win helped the Irish take a step closer to winning the Big East West Division championship.
If you have a suggestion for Irish Rewind, send it to email@example.com.