March 20, 2000
By JR ROSS
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - The Musketeers had heard about enough from David Graves and his 21 first-half points.
And that eased some of the pressure off Notre Dame All-American Troy Murphy.
Graves scored 24 points and Murphy added 21 as Notre Dame beat Xavier 76-64 Monday night in the NIT second round, giving the Irish their first 20-win season in more than a decade.
"We wanted to do a good job on (Murphy)," said Xavier coach Skip Prosser. "We didn't consciously try to stop Murphy and let the other guys beat us.
"Not only did (Graves) have 21, he really delighted in telling us about it ... I told our players I would rather that not happen to them in the second half."
The Musketeers (21-12) lived - and died - by the 3-pointer, taking 36. But Xavier hit only four over the final 10 minutes, including Maurice McAfee's 3-pointer with 2:09 left that cut the Notre Dame (20-14) lead down to 64-61.
Murphy converted a three-point play on Notre Dame's next possession, and the Irish hit 9-of-10 from the line over the final 1:19 to seal the win.
Freshman Matt Carroll, who finished with 13 points, was 6-of-6 from the line during that stretch. The Irish were 21-of-27 from the foul line, while Xavier was 6-of-11.
"We were saying we're still in this game, let's get it done," McAffee said of the 61-58 deficit. "We didn't get it done, though, and it was over."
Xavier led 45-44 early in the second half before the Irish reeled off a 15-4
run that included 3s from Graves, Murphy and Martin Ingelsby. Notre Dame capped
off its spurt after officials hit the Xavier bench with a technical foul.
"I think the officials did the best job I've ever seen of policing our players on the bench," said Prosser, who interviewed for the Notre Dame position last spring. "They were precise and sharp. I thought college kids would like to stand up and support teammates."
Ingelsby hit both free throws, and the Irish led 59-49 with 10:30 left. Still, Xavier was able to pull close when the Irish scored just two points in a seven-minute stretch before Murphy took over and the Irish started hitting at the line.
Graves' 21 first-half points came partly because the game began as a 3-point shooting contest. The Musketeers missed their first three attempts from beyond the arc and finished 12-of-36 from 3-point range, while the Irish were 9-of-17 and Graves hit 5-of-7.
"(Graves) really came out smoking," said Notre Dame coach Matt Doherty, whose team outrebounded Xavier 41-30. "He set the tone for our team."
McAfee led Xavier with 18 points, all on 3-pointers, while Kevin Frey added 11 and Lloyd Price had 10.
Notre Dame will be the host to the winner of the BYU-Southern Illinois game on Wednesday for a berth in the NIT Final Four. It will be Notre Dame's third straight home game in the tournament.
"We feel like we're out here with something to prove," Murphy said. "We're just trying to show people they made a mistake by not letting us in (to the NCAA tournament)."