Irish Rewind: Big effort from Troy Murphy helps Notre Dame dump Providence

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Point proven.

Being picked to finish second to last in the Big East preseason poll didn't sit well with members of the Notre Dame basketball team, who had their first opportunity to voice their say in the matter on Tuesday in the conference opener against Providence.

The Irish shook off a sluggish start that threatened to turn the game into a Friars' funfest before roaring back for an 83-80 victory behind Troy Murphy's career-high 30 points and inspirational efforts from Jimmy Dillon, Paul Rainey and Harold Swanagan.

"We really stuck together," said Murphy, who tied Allen Iverson's Big East record for points as a freshman in a league opener. "We needed to get a win on the road that was close. We knew we could beat these guys."

Winners of two in a row for the first time all year, the Irish move to 4-5 overall, 1-0 and a share of the Big East conference lead. Providence loses for the first time in seven games and falls to 6-3, 0-1.

"We were able to settle down and not get rattled," Irish coach John MacLeod said. "This was a big win for our program."

And a big boost off the bench from Dillon and Rainey. With starting point guard Martin Ingelsby ineffective, MacLeod turned to Dillon, who logged a career-high 35 minutes. He scored seven points with seven assists.

"I knew my turn was going to come," Dillon said. "I just wanted to play as steady as possible and we did what we had to do to get a win."

Rainey was just as steady as the defensive stopper. Having played a total of 18 minutes all season, Rainey tallied 21 minutes and had two rebounds and four assists.

"I wanted to get out there and get some intensity going," said Rainey. "We're not as talented as some teams just to go through the motions."

Murphy's coolness the final 15 seconds boiled the blood pressure of Providence fans. Twice Murphy was sent to the line with the Irish lead trimmed first to three points, then to two. Murphy sank all four chances to keep the Friars out of reach.

"I knew they would foul me," said Murphy, who also added 11 rebounds in 36 minutes of action in front of friends and family. "I like that time of the game when it goes down to the wire. I just took a few deep breaths and (the shots) felt good."

Providence leader Jamel Thomas was nearly speechless afterward, especially since he expected his team to coast after the Friars scored the game's first 11 points.

"I'm going to take the blame for this one. I didn't play defense," Thomas said. "They got easy baskets. That's what killed us the second half."

Coming off Big East Player of the Week honors, Thomas tallied 21 points but was outplayed by Murphy.

Antoni Wyche had waited since his two missed free throws against Vanderbilt to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line. On Tuesday, the chance finally arrived and unlike in Nashville, Wyche calmly delivered.

His driving lay-up with three seconds left on the shot clock nudged the Irish lead to five, 77-72, with 31 seconds to play. After two Thomas free throws, Wyche was sent to the line and sank a pair of tosses to make it 79-74 with 21.5 seconds left.

What kind of game was it? The mild-mannered MacLeod picked up a technical foul with 13:17 after protesting Phil Hickey's third foul.

Murphy was the man early in the second half as he scored the team's first eight points, two baskets coming off dunks, another on a lay-up off the break and his fourth on a short flip shot as Dillon continuously found soft spots in the Providence full-court press.

"We were going to go out there and play our butts off," Dillon said. "Luckily, a couple of things opened up and we took advantage of their defense."

The Irish freshmen refused to be intimidated in their first Big East game and scored 40 of the team's first 47 points.

"It's been great to have those three," MacLeod said.

Providence threatened to run away and hide with the game early in the first half. Picking the Notre Dame zone defense to pieces while forcing the Irish to turn it over the first four times they had the ball, the Friars scored the game's first 11 points, including three from long range, to take a 17-7 lead less than eight minutes into the game.

MacLeod then substituted Dillon and Rainey, the former walk-on, for Ingelsby and Wyche, who logged only four and eight minutes respectively the first 20. Swanagan then checked into the contest when Phil Hickey picked up his second foul at the 15:40 mark, and the changes seemed to spark the Irish.

Notre Dame played like a team possessed the rest of the half, outscoring the Friars 32-5 in one strong stretch. Murphy settled down and scored 11 points in the half. His lay-in and free throw at the 5:38 mark gave him 11 points -- the first Irish freshman since LaPhonso Ellis to score double figures in each of his first nine games. Murphy also didn't pick up a foul until early in the second half.

"This," MacLeod said, "was a team effort tonight."

NOTRE DAME 83 PROVIDENCE 80

NOTRE DAME (83)

min fg ft rb pf tp

36 Troy Murphy 11-16 8-15 11 3 30

30 David Graves 4-9 8-10 2 1 17

9 Phil Hickey 1-3 0-0 4 4 2

20 Antoni Wyche 4-7 2-2 1 0 12

5 Martin Ingelsby 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

21 Paul Rainey 0-1 0-0 2 1 0

35 Jimmy Dillon 3-7 1-2 1 1 7

30 Harold Swanagan 5-5 3-3 4 4 13

10 Skylard Owens 1-1 0-0 0 1 2

4 Todd Palmer 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

TOTALS 29-49 22-32 31 17 83

3-point fg-fga included in totals above: Wyche 2-3, Graves 1-3, Dillon 0-1. TOTALS 3-7.

PROVIDENCE (80)

min fg ft rb pf tp

37 Sean Connolly 6-16 3-4 4 2 21

35 Jamel Thomas 8-18 5-5 2 4 21

23 Erron Maxey 3-7 2-2 5 3 8

19 Jamaal Camah 3-4 2-4 2 5 9

20 John Linehan 0-4 0-0 3 1 0

23 Corey Wright 3-5 2-4 4 2 9

8 Ben Perkins 1-1 0-0 0 2 2

17 Justin Farley 3-8 0-0 3 4 6

18 Llewellyn Cole 2-3 0-0 2 2 4

TOTALS 29-66 14-19 28 25 80

3-point fg-fga included in totals above: Connolly 6-13, Camah 1-2, Wright 1-2, Linehan 0-2, Thomas 0-6. TOTALS: 8-25.

Halftime score: Notre Dame 39, Providence 31.

Shooting: Notre Dame 29-of-49 (59 percent), Providence 29-of-66 (44 percent).

Assists: Notre Dame 20 (Dillon 7), Providence 20 (Wright 7)

Turnovers: Notre Dame 20 (Murphy 7), Providence 13 (Thomas 6).

Technical fouls: Notre Dame coach John MacLeod, Providence coach Tim Welsh.

Officials: Tom Lopes, James Frank, Curtis Shaw.

Attendance: 8,531.

Each week during the college basketball season, NDI takes a look back at a memorable Irish game with a reprint of the story that appeared in the South Bend Tribune.

This week's Irish Rewind jumps back to the first time two-time All-American Troy Murphy offered a glimpse into his eventual NBA-lottery pick potential.

On Dec. 8, 1998, in what would be coach John MacLeod's final season in South Bend, Notre Dame played a rare early-December conference game at Providence.

Coming off two losses in the Carrs Great Alaska Shootout, including one in overtime to Division II Anchorage, Notre Dame was not not expected to do much in the road game. But Murphy had other ideas.

The then-freshman dominated, going for 30 points and 11 rebounds while former point guard Jimmy Dillon played one of his best games in the 83-80 win.

This story appeared in the Dec. 9, 1998 edition of the Tribune.

If you have a suggestion for Irish Rewind, send it to tnoie@ndinsider.com.