ND Confessional: Sacrifice for Success

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With thirty-four seconds remaining in their game against Kentucky, Notre Dame called timeout. The score was tied at sixty-six, and the Irish had just turned the ball over to the Wildcats. The shot clock was off.

As soon as Kentucky inbounded the ball, ND fouled, sending the UK ballhandler to the line. He made both shots, giving the ball back to Notre Dame down 68-66, with thirty-three seconds left on the clock and the chance to tie the game or take the lead and claim a berth in the Final Four.

ND could have had the final possession of the game with more than thirty seconds on the clock, down two, down one, or still tied, if they had fouled Kentucky immediately. The preceding paragraph would have described reality. It does not, because they did not.

Instead, the Irish passively allowed Kentucky to write the script for the game’s final seconds, their foul coming with a mere six seconds left on the game clock. Why wait so long? A quick foul seems like the obvious play. Even if Kentucky made both free throws– and they might not!– Notre Dame still would have nearly a full-length possession in which to tie or take the lead. In essence, an immediate foul inverts in ND’s favor the situation that existed coming out of ND’s timeout. Sure, they might be down two points rather than tied, but they seemed content to grant Kentucky that opportunity to score anyway. The only difference is time.

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