By Jimmy Cassidy
For its season-opening exhibition game, the men’s basketball team at Catholic University traveled to Notre Dame, Indiana to take on the Fighting Irish on Monday, November 7th. The contest featured a successful Division III team in Catholic and a Fighting Irish team that has reached the past two Elite 8s of the Division I NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame got the best of Catholic with a 103-48 win, but the experience is surely one that the Cardinals will cherish and remember for years to come.
Twenty Catholic players got to step onto Purcell Pavilion Court and represent the school on Monday night. Coach Steve Howes said before the game that all who made the trip would get into the game, a declaration the team appreciated. The team was far from alone during the night, however. Dozens of Catholic students took advantage of the Custos organization’s transportation offer, and took a 10 hour bus ride to South Bend to witness the game in person. The contest was also streamed live on WatchESPN, a feat that excites any Division III sports fan. This gave hundreds more Catholic students and alumni the chance to tune in from afar, as many watched and snapped pictures to send to friends on the team.
In the game itself, it was junior forward Jay Howard who led the offensive effort against the Fighting Irish. The D-III All-American candidate showed why he’s received the consideration, putting up 14 points and 10 rebounds in the contest. Howard was the only Catholic player to score in double figures, and end up with a double-double against defenders that had five to seven inches on his 6’3 frame. This was a challenge he was looking forward to, though.
“It was definitely a challenge for us as a team and individually because of their length and athleticism, typically we don’t really see 6’8 or 6’10 players in the teams we play,” Howard said. “I had to work a lot harder for shots too, but I believe this experience will help us moving forward just from the speed and physicality that we played against.”
Sophomore forward Andrew Wade followed up with 7 points off the bench, and guards Louis Khouri and Jeff Holland both knocked down a pair of threes to contribute 6 points each. Notre Dame played their starters for a great majority of the contest until there was just 4:30 left to play in the game. The reported attendance was just under 5,500 at Purcell Pavilion.
“The experience was very joyful, one that I will never forget,” Howard said after the game. “It’s not everyday where a D-III team can play an elite team like Notre Dame.”
The trip to Notre Dame was also memorable for the students who chose this opportunity over a day of Monday classes, and traveled via bus to the campus. The group of 30 arrived Monday morning, enjoyed a tour of the impressive campus, and met up with friends who are students at Notre Dame before the game began. After many pictures at the Grotto and in front of “Touchdown Jesus,” the CUA faithful entered as excited visiting fans.
Amongst the group that made the trip was junior civil engineering major James Walsh, who was thrilled at the opportunity of a CUA vs. ND sporting event.
“It was an unbelievable opportunity for our basketball team and I’m happy to say that I was apart of it as a fan. To have our school represented on TV competing against one of the most successful athletic programs in the country is surreal,” Walsh said. “I hope it becomes a tradition for years to come.”
Sophomore nursing major Kate Foster relished the atmosphere at Purcell Pavilion, a much different setting than Franny Murray Court at the DuFour Center.
“It was very special to watch my university play in such a big arena because it was something I never thought I would be able to do,” Foster said. “A group of us moved down into the Notre Dame Student section to sit with friends who attend the university, and the group of red in the sea of blue and gold tried their best to cheer as loud as they could for CUA!”
Sophomore guard Billy Barnes was the team’s scribe for the trip, as he kept up “The Billy Blog” along the way. The team practiced at Duquesne University, visited the city of Cleveland, and also enjoyed a tour of Notre Dame’s campus. The forty minutes of basketball, though, will be the biggest highlight for the players.
“I never wanted that game to end,” Barnes, who knocked down a three-pointer, said.
The men’s team will be back in action on Saturday, November 19th vs. Hamilton, part of the Pablo Coto Tip-Off Tournament in Arlington, Virginia. Tip off set for 1 PM.