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Men’s Basketball: Buzzer beater sinks squad

Bobby Griffin | Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Notre Dame lost 87-84 to Michigan in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) Monday in Ann Arbor, Mich., on a Dion Harris’ 3-pointer as time expired in double overtime.

It was a fitting end to a season in which Notre Dame competed in every game but had trouble finding a way to win in the final minutes, as the Irish lost 11 Big East games by a combined 39 points.

Harris received a Daniel Norton pass well beyond the 3-point line after Notre Dame smothered Harris on his drive to the basket with time running out during the second overtime. He faded away over the Irish perimeter defense and nailed the game winner before 8,554 fans at Crisler Arena.

“We laid it all on the line, which has been our style,” Irish coach Mike Brey said in a press conference following the game. “But they made some key plays. They made more key plays than we did.”

Harris finished with 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting. Horton led all scorers with 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting and added eight assists and three steals.

Michigan coach Tommy Amaker – now 5-0 in games against Notre Dame coach Mike Brey – greeted Brey at center court with a hug. The two were assistant coaches together at Duke in the late 1980s and early 90s.

“Well, we know their staff, we have empathy for what they’re going through, what they’ve gone through all season,” Amaker said in a press conference following the game.

Irish guard Chris Quinn had a chance to put Notre Dame ahead with 16 seconds remaining and Notre Dame trailing 84-83. But the 88-percent free-throw shooter missed the second of two shots from the foul line.

Quinn led Notre Dame with 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting, including a layup that tied the game at 70 in the final seconds of regulation.

Horton hit a 3-pointer on the previous possession in regulation when he curled off a screen and received a Harris pass at the top of the key beyond the 3-point line. The shot put the Wolverines up 70-68, leading to Quinn’s baseline layup.

Notre Dame controlled early on, including a 16-4 run after trading baskets with Michigan to start the game.

Irish forward Torin Francis led Notre Dame in the opening period, scoring six points in the first eight minutes of play. But Francis calmed down after his quick start and finished with 14 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor and 8-of-10 from the line.

Notre Dame guard Colin Falls also got off to a strong start, scoring 11 points in the first half. Falls finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting.

Turnovers and foul trouble hurt Notre Dame in the second half as Michigan slowly crept back into the game. The Irish led 41-33 at the break, but opened the second half with four turnovers that led to a quick 6-0 Wolverines run.

Quinn (seven) and Irish guard Colin Falls (six) combined for 13 of Notre Dame’s 19 turnovers in the game. Quinn made a costly turnover in the first overtime period – one that led to a Harris layup that gave Michigan a 75-73 lead.

Five Notre Dame players had four or more fouls in the game. Irish forward Rob Kurz fouled out and Francis, Falls, forward Rick Cornett and guard Russell Carter all had four fouls each.

The loss marked the final college game for Quinn, Francis and Cornett, who will all graduate in May. Brey said after the game he is proud of his team given the season the Irish had.

“I love this team and I am really going to miss not going to practice tomorrow,” Brey said. “They did not win a championship, they had to grind it the whole time, and I am very proud of how they have always battled.”

But Quinn saw it differently. The Irish point guard, who was named to the All Big East first team, had to handle much of the pressure this season as Notre Dame struggled in close games.

“It kind of signifies our whole season, really,” Quinn said following the game. “Coach Brey was trying to talk to us and put things in perspective, but it is kind of hard to do that right now. It is personal. For me, it is my last game.

“It truly is a tough loss – it’s disheartening.”

Michigan is now 12-0 in NIT home games. Michigan will play the winner of No. 2 Creighton and No. 3 Miami (Florida) Tuesday.

Note:

Brey experimented with a variety of lineups during the game, heavily rotating Falls, Carter, Cornett and forward Ryan Ayers. Brey also inserted forwards Zach Hillensland and Luke Zeller into the game for brief stints.

Ayers played extensively in the second half and in both overtime periods.