The near-incredulous smile on the face of Russell Carter
said it all.
Just moments previously, the Fighting Irish were on the verge of another collapse. Up by ten with under four minutes to play, Notre Dame turned it over on three consecutive possessions and appeared on the verge of collapse. It was now a 3-point game, and an all-too familiar scenario for the Fighting Irish.
Weve been down this path before. Might as well head for the locker room and add another notch to the what could have been column right now. Right?
Senior wing Russell Carter
made a literally program-changing 3-pointer to nip the latest Fighting Irish collapse in the bud, and then all but sealed the deal with another long 2-pointer from the opposite baseline and an emphatic steal with just under two minutes to play. The senior finished with 27 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 6 huge 3-pointers.
In finishing off Alabama, Notre Dame proved that is isnt last years crunch time-allergic Fighting Irish squad.
The college basketball season is as young and fickle as ever, and Notre Dames Preseason NIT loss to a Butler squad predicted to finish near the bottom of the Horizon league barely elicited a scoff from the national hype machine. Last weekends win over Maryland turned a few heads, but still ever since Juan Dixon
took his game to the NBA, the Terps have been capable of losing to anybody.
But tonights win? This was different. At the three minute mark, the Fighting Irish looked scared and tentative, a team on the verge of blowing yet another one. After Carters second 3-pointer, five different players stood on the court. These Fighting Irish were collected, confident, almost brash.
All of a sudden, that 2-point loss to the Preseason NIT Champs doesnt appear to be nearly as much of blemish on the old resume. It is a long season and the early success of this Notre Dame squad at the moment when just about everybody had written them off only proves that anything can happen. But if Mike Brey was ever to lead the Fighting Irish anywhere, this was the kind of win that he needed.
Notre Dame is essentially finished with their non-conference slate, so barring a major upset the Fighting Irish will enter the Big East slate firmly entrenched in the Top 25. There are certainly issues on the defensive side of the ball that must be dealt with, but it appears this is a team that could be a factor in the conference race. There is a bit of experience, a bit of depth and bit of talent at every position.
As for Carter, hes not too bad either. The senior has shown quiet, steady improvement since hardly getting off the bench as a freshman, emerging as a key rotation player last season and Breys go-to scorer this fall.
Checking in at a somewhat stocky 64, Carter doesnt appear to be much of an NBA prospect at first glance. But he is a player that tends to grow on you. He is as physical as they come, and has a knack for making the big play. He attacks the rim powerfully, and while his outside shot is far from graceful, it goes in.
Carters game is a bit reminiscent of former second round pick Michael Redd
, with being a comparison of play style and obviously not a projection of success at the next level. Much like Redd, he gets things done in an unconventional way, but almost always gets it done. At the very least, expect Carter to make a lot of noise in Big East play and receive an invite to the Pre-Draft Camp this next spring.