Rebels brace for Fighting Irish
March 18, 2001
From staff, wire reports
KANSAS CITY, Mo. Arizona is still getting the bulk of the attention here in the NCAA Midwest Regional, but today's second game features the tough defense and depth of Ole Miss against Notre Dame for the right to go to the Sweet 16.
Ole Miss is 26-7 after surviving a scare against Iona, while Notre Dame (20-9) shot 63 percent in its opening-round 83-71 win over Xavier.
David Graves was reinserted into the starting lineup and made all seven of his shots and Matt Carroll had 21 points against Xavier in the Irish's first NCAA appearance since 1990.
Getting the chance to play in the tournament was one of the reasons Notre Dame All-American Troy Murphy stayed in school and didn't go pro.
The things we had done as a team weren't what I had hoped for last year,'' said Murphy, who scored 17 against the Musketeers but shot just 6-of-17.
So that was the driving force to come back to do something in the NCAA tournament.''
Ole Miss edged Iona 72-70 in the opening round, even though star forward Rahim Lockhart played just 15 minutes because of foul problems. He scored 12 points and the Rebels held Iona to 37 percent shooting in the second half.
Now he goes against Murphy and the Irish.
I was part of a camp with Troy this summer, so I've seen him up close,'' Lockhart said. It's going to be tough and that's the kind of game we like to play.''
The Rebels and Irish are expected to tip off around 3:50 p.m., or approximately 30 minutes after Arizona battles Butler.
The first game today features one of the nation's hottest teams against another cinderella hopeful.
Their coach hails from a town called Hoopeston and they play their home games in the arena where the championship scene from the movie Hoosiers'' was shot. No wonder the Butler Bulldogs are serious about their basketball.
Now after capturing the school's first NCAA tournament victory since 1962 by smothering Wake Forest in the opening round, it's time to challenge one of college basketball's most successful programs.
This team has a goal of reaching the Sweet 16 and Friday put us 40 minutes closer. Now we've drawn maybe the best team in the country,'' Butler coach Thad Matta says of the matchup with No. 2 seed Arizona.
The Bulldogs (24-7) won't be intimidated by the Wildcats (24-7). They've already played once this season in December and even though Arizona won 72-60 on its home floor, it was a four-point game with 90 seconds to play.
Considering the Bulldogs' travel woes just to get to Tucson their most lopsided loss this season wasn't a big deal.
When their original flight was canceled, they took a bus to Cincinnati and then flew to Minneapolis where the team was split up for separate flights to Phoenix.
The first group arrived in Phoenix and went 100 miles by bus to Tucson. The second group arrived later and was about to board a van, but it caught on fire. They ended up taking expensive limousine and cab rides across the desert, arriving at the hotel at 3 a.m.
We're used to crazy things happening,'' said Matta, who's from Hoopeston, Ill. We just go with the flow.''
Butler, which lost a heartbreaking overtime game to Florida in last year's first round, held Wake without a basket for the first nine minutes Friday and blew out to a 43-10 halftime lead before winning 79-63.
Our guys know how good Butler is, I know how good Butler is and Wake Forest knows how good,'' Arizona coach Lute Olson said. They've blown their cover.''
The Bulldogs feature three guards in LaVall Jordan, Thomas Jackson and Brandon Miller who showed Friday they quick ball handlers, tough defenders and accurate 3-point shooters.
I don't think they impressed me because I expected them to play tough. I know Indiana basketball. It's very competitive,'' said Arizona guard Jason Gardner, who hails from Indianapolis.
Butler will have to clog the middle against Arizona's muscular Michael Wright and lanky Loren Woods.
The 7-foot-1 Woods had 25 points and three blocks in the first meeting with Butler and was a force Friday in a 101-76 victory over Eastern Illinois when he scored 17, had nine rebounds and blocked six shots.
No one has a huge advantage,'' Woods said. Butler's hungry. We're hungry. They played us three months ago down to the wire. Heighth didn't matter then and it doesn't matter now.''
The Wildcats have regrouped to win 16 of their last 18 games following an emotional season that included the death of Olson's wife and suspensions for Woods and Richard Jefferson.
When Olson returned in mid-January, the Wildcats began their season-ending run.
You could sense from the players OK, everyone is here now and let's get on with it,''' Olson said.