December 20, 2006

Poise under pressure

Two months from now, when the Irish are firmly embedded in Big East conference play, most of the 7,861 in attendance will barely recall this game. It may even be a distant memory to the players themselves since the pressures of conference play will have kicked in.

But when every movement seemed to be a stuck in mud and the free-flowing Notre Dame offense that came into the Portland game averaging 87 points per game couldn't get untracked, it proved a valuable lesson when the Irish put their nose to the grindstone and worked their way toward an 86-69 victory against visiting Portland Tuesday night.

"At halftime, some of the guys were angry, and I said, 'So we're not making shots. It's not a highlight film. We may have to scratch and grind and claw our way through this,'" said Irish head coach Mike Brey. "I said, 'We may not score 80 points.' Yet at the end of the day, we still had 86 up there.

"We had a little tension in the locker room. I said at halftime, 'This is good for us. It's not show time.' I asked the old guys, 'How many games in league play are going to have to be fistfights, grind it, scratch it, claw it? So I thought that was good.'"

So as not to misinterpret, this was not a hold-on-for-dear-life type of game. That was an emotion more prevalent in late November against Lehigh when the Irish squeaked out a 93-87 home victory.

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