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January 25, 2006Only the pain was new.
Chris Quinn sat in his usual spot on his usual couch following Notre Dame's 85-82 double overtime loss to Georgetown at the Joyce Center on Tuesday, facing the same questions why the Irish falter in games' final moments and how they can climb from this deepening hole.
This one just hurt more. That's what comes with a 15-point rally and forcing overtime on a wild four-point play. That's the pain linked to a season sliding agonizingly out of control even though Notre Dame's fallen twice in double overtime and hung around until the final minute of its three other conference losses.
But none of those dramatics matter with the Irish backsliding to 10-7 overall and 1-5 in the Big East. Forget the NCAA Tournament, simply qualifying for the Big East postseason would be an event.
"Man, I don't know," Quinn said when asked what's kept the Irish on the wrong end of box scores. "It's happened really in all five of our Big East losses, we've been down to game situations at the end. I'm confident the next time we get this we're going to pull it out."
Unfortunately for Quinn, there's little evidence the Irish will.
If Notre Dame can change its karma the Irish need to pick themselves off the mat first. Rebounding for Saturday's home date with Villanova means forgetting Colin Falls' three-pointer, drawn foul and free throw with 1.8 seconds left that forced overtime. It means getting over Quinn's rattling runner at the first extra session's end. It means coping with woeful foul shooting including 4-for-8 in the second overtime, with three of those misses from Rick Cornett.
Mike Brey can't help but wonder if his team, fresh off a last-second loss to Marquette on Jan. 20 and now this, is up to it.
"I think you always worry about that," Brey said. "They've already taken a bunch [of punches] and I think that shows some character and some resiliency. You've got no choice."
Notre Dame's best option for pain avoidance came in the final seconds of the first overtime when Quinn snuck behind the Hoyas' defense and caught a three-quarter-court pass from Rob Kurz over 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert. Quinn spun into the lane and floated the ball toward the rim, but it rolled off as the Irish guard winced.
Quinn finished with a game-high 26 points and 10 assists. Falls added 18 and Kurz 14.
"That's probably where you've got to steal it on a night like that," Brey said of Quinn's miss. "I think he was shocked he caught it behind everyone there."
Fresh off an upset of previously unbeaten Duke, Georgetown (13-4, 4-2) ground down Notre Dame in the second overtime thanks in part to Hibbert, who worked his way into posting up the 6-5 Falls on multiple possessions. Hibbert finished with 18 points, tied for team honors, to go with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Torin Francis fouled out in regulation, leaving the Irish few defensive options in the lane.
Notre Dame exhausted its final chances in double overtime on an in-bounds play designed for Falls that wound up going to Kurz. The Irish forward went unchecked by Georgetown, but his three-point shot missed with Kyle McAlarney firing a desperate and errant triple after an offensive rebound.
"I'd have him shoot it again right now," Falls said of Kurz's miss. "These are life lessons that we're learning and we've got to keep competing, coming to work every day and we'll be all right. No doubt this is frustrating. We're trying our best, it's just not working out."
Notre Dame's best wasn't good enough in part because it didn't play to that level in the first half as Georgetown connected on 6-of-12 three-pointers to build a 29-14 lead at the 4:54 mark. The Irish nearly halved that margin by intermission with three-pointers from Falls, Kurz and Quinn.
Notre Dame pulled even at 50-50 with 11:33 left when Quinn canned a jumper.
"The first half I thought we were pretty soft and not the team we had been, battling," Quinn said. "At halftime it was time to re-evaluate ourselves, pick the energy up. You can't fall behind to team a like that. I think that contributed down the stretch maybe, I don't know."
Consider that another tough question Notre Dame can't answer.