Irish Rewind: Humphrey, seniors go out in style
SOUTH BEND -- Everything the Notre Dame men's basketball team had worked toward the last seven months was slipping away Saturday with just over seven minutes remaining.
Pestered by a Providence team that had often worked however it wanted on offense, the Irish were no longer certain of winning 20 games for the third consecutive season. A return trip to the NCAA Tournament also was in jeopardy, as was a top three seed in this week's Big East Tournament.
While a sellout house was collectively pondering what had gone wrong, the Irish were asking themselves one question -- what could they do to win the game?
The answer was a little of everything.
Notre Dame raced back to erase a seven-point deficit, holding Providence without a field goal in the final 7:09 to post a 76-68 victory in front of 11,418.
"We've been there and done that," Irish forward Ryan Humphrey said. "We feel like when the game is close, we've got guys that can make plays."
Needing a spark somewhere from someone, the Irish saw several surface.
Senior small forward David Graves had a pair of steals and forced a turnover in the backcourt during the decisive run. He also scored five quick points to shave the deficit to two with 6:34 remaining.
"We had to do something, that's for sure," Graves said. "Those are just momentum plays that you need, especially down the stretch."
Less than two minutes later, Humphrey gave Notre Dame the lead for good by attacking the offensive backboard and tipping in a Chris Thomas miss to make it 66-65 with 4:13 remaining.
Graves, Humphrey and classmate Harold Swanagan combined for 14 of Notre Dame's final 19 points. The three seniors also kept the Irish steered toward a successful finish in their last game at the Joyce Center.
"That's why we're good," head coach Mike Brey said of his upperclassmen. "That's why we're going to the NCAA Tournament."
With momentum surging toward Notre Dame's side and the crowd wanting to erupt with the home team up 66-65, junior Matt Carroll tossed in a 3-pointer in front of the Notre Dame bench. That gave the Irish the breathing room they needed to play focused and free in the final 3:26.
"It was a good time to hit it," said Carroll, who finished with 16 points and was 4-for-8 from 3-point range. "It gave us a little boost, gave us a little edge on the offensive end. We needed something big like that."
Thomas added 13 points and three assists. His first helper of the day -- for a Humphrey dunk -- set the school's single-season record of 215.
Some four minutes before Carroll's basket, which pushed Notre Dame ahead 69-65, the Irish had trailed 64-57 following a Tukka Kotti jumper. The crowd grew restless as Brey's pace quickened on the sideline.
A win would all but assure Notre Dame a second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. A loss, and the Irish might have had to reach the title game in the league tournament to enjoy March Madness.
"You see your life flashing before your eyes a little bit," Brey said. "Providence played well. Sometimes the other team does play well and they were loose."
Graves finished with 14 points, five rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes while Humphrey took another strong step toward a first team all-league selection by flirting with a triple-double.
Humphrey had his seventh straight double-double and 18th of the season with 21 points and 13 rebounds, both game-highs. The senior also had a career-high seven assists with three steals and two blocked shots in 38 inspired minutes.
"The guy wants to win," Brey said. "It's not by accident that we've won the last two years when he got eligible."
The win gave Notre Dame 20 for the third consecutive season against nine losses and improved the Irish to 10-6 in the Big East West Division. Notre Dame is currently alone in second place in the West. The Irish will wait for today's Boston College-Syracuse game to finalize their league tournament itinerary.
Should Boston College win, Notre Dame earns a first-round bye and opens quarterfinals play Thursday at 9 p.m. A Syracuse win sends Brey's team to a first-round game Wednesday at 2 p.m.
Providence has lost three straight and five of its last eight to fall to 15-15 overall, 6-10 and in sixth place in the Big East East Division. A Villanova win over St. John's today keeps the Friars at the No. 6 seed in the East, and a possible first-round rematch with Notre Dame.
"Playing them again, I'm certainly not confident we can beat them," Providence head coach Tim Welsh said. "It's not a good thing to play a team that's excellent."
The Friars were led by the backcourt combination of Abdul Mills (14 points) and John Linehan (10), the only two players to score double figures for the visitors, who managed only four free throws after building their seven-point lead.
"Our guys gave a great effort," Welsh said. "Our offense sputtered the last six, seven minutes. That's kind of been our Achilles' heel."
Having trailed by five points early, Providence took a 41-38 lead into the locker room at intermission. It was the first time in 10 games that Notre Dame trailed at the break, and the fourth consecutive half that the Irish had allowed the opposition to score at least 40 points.
Graves had seen enough.
"I told the guys at halftime, 'We can't afford any more bad halves,'" he said. "We don't have any games where we're going to have (another) game in the next two days.
"Everybody needs to understand that this is the type of game situations we're going to be in every night."
Staff writer Tom Noie: firstname.lastname@example.org (574) 235-6153
NOTRE DAME 76,
NOTRE DAME (76)
min fg ft rb pf tp
38 Ryan Humphrey 7-14 7-10 13 0 21
39 David Graves 4-9 5-5 8 3 14
20 Harold Swanagan 3-4 0-0 0 4 6
40 Chris Thomas 4-12 3-3 2 2 13
31 Matt Carroll 6-11 0-0 2 3 16
0+ Charles Thomas 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
16 Jordan Cornette 2-2 1-2 3 3 6
0+ Jere Macura 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
12 Torrian Jones 0-1 0-0 1 3 0
4 Tom Timmermans 0-1 0-0 1 0 0
200 TOTALS 26-54 16-20 31 18 76
3-point fg-fga included in totals above: Graves 1-4, Thomas 2-6, Carroll 4-8, Cornette 1-1, Jones 0-1. TOTALS: 8-20 (40 percent).
min fg ft rb pf tp
27 Rob Sanders 2-4 3-5 4 2 7
26 Leland Anderson 2-9 2-2 7 4 6
22 Ryan Gomes 1-3 4-4 3 4 6
26 Abdul Mills 3-6 6-7 3 2 14
38 John Linehan 4-13 0-0 3 3 10
18 Sheiku Kabba 2-6 2-2 2 2 7
2 Kareem Hayletts 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
22 Christopher Anrin 3-5 0-0 2 0 9
19 Tuukka Kotti 4-8 0-0 3 1 9
200 TEAM 7
200 TOTALS 21-54 17-20 34 18 68
3-point fg-fga included in totals above: Mills 2-4, Linehan 2-8, Kabba 1-4, Anrin 3-5, Kotti 1-2. TOTALS: 9-23 (39.1 percent)
Halftime score: Providence 41, NotreDame 38.
Shooting: Notre Dame 26-54 (48.1 percent) Providence 21-54 (38.9 percent)
Assists: Notre Dame 21 (Humphrey 7), Providence 13 (Linehan 5).
Turnovers: Notre Dame 12, Providence 16
Officials: Jim Burr, William Bush, Tom Lopes.
Occasionally during the college basketball offseason, NDI takes a look back at a memorable Notre Dame game with a reprint of the story that appeared in the South Bend Tribune.
This Irish Rewind looks back at the final regular-season home game for former power forward Ryan Humphrey, who will rejoin the program as an assistant coach.
On March 2, 2002, Humphrey scored 21 points with 13 rebounds for the 18th double-double of a senior season that would see him earn first team All-Big East honors. Notre Dame beat Providence 76-68. This story appeared in the March 3, 2002 edition of the Tribune.
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