Free throws keep Notre Dame on winning path against Shepherd
Tyree Gaiter was the smallest player on the Butcher Center court. The Notre Dame point guard was also the quickest, had enough savvy to allow him to play keep-away with his dribble when challenged by Shepherd defenders and was a near-perfect free throw shooter.
Gaiter’s 18-of-19 free throw accuracy and his 32 points were the main thrusts in Notre Dame’s 91-83 men’s basketball win over the Rams in a Monday afternoon Mountain East Conference game.
The fourth quarter — where the Falcon lead was always just out of reach of the Shepherd effort — became a featured clinic of free throw excellence by the diminutive Notre Dame guard.
The Falcons had managed a workable lead with an eight-point string of points that left them with a 25-18 edge near the nine-minute mark of the opening half.
Neither team could find many offensive rebounds and both sides contested their opponents’ half-court offense. In fact, Shepherd could only score sparingly inside of 12-feet.
Even when Ryan McTavish or A.J. Carr scored from the perimeter, Notre Dame was quickly in its front court and finding shots it could make.
Toward the close of the first half, Shepherd was shooting poorly . . . and the Notre Dame lead was increasing with each passing minute.
The result of Notre Dame’s much better ways of getting high-percentage shots in the half’s last seven minutes was its 47-32 lead by halftime. The Falcons had made 56 percent of their shots and the Rams had made only 40 percent of their’s.
Carr had 16 of Shepherd’s 32 points.
McTavish and Steffen Davis acted as if their shots were guided by radar in the second half as both repeatedly made long three-pointers.
Notre Dame’s advantage was down to 52-47 with fully 14:37 left to play.
Shepherd was within 70-69, but that’s when the fouls began to break the collective backs that had staged the methodical comeback.
The Falcons scored six consecutive points on free throws to stymie the Shepherd surge and push the lead back out to 76-69.
When McTavish rained in two long-range three-pointers, Shepherd was as close as it would ever be again, trailing 78-75.
Gaiter took control of the game in his small hands and quick-silver moves through Shepherd traffic.
He converted free throw after free throw . . . after free throw.
And Notre Dame, which used just six players and had Will Vorhees score 25 points and Kyuala Taylor add another 21 points, had a conference win after being thrashed in a conference loss at Fairmont on Saturday.
Carr’s 28 points, coupled with 22 from McTavish and 16 from Davis, had pushed the Falcons . . . but then Gaiter pushed back.
The Rams were left with a 9-7 overall mark and a 4-6 league record.
There had been too much inside scoring and free throw accuracy from Notre Dame and too little inside antics and too few free throws from the Rams.