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On the road again

Matt Lozar | Wednesday, January 21, 2004

After Saturday’s loss to Syracuse, the Irish talked about becoming more physical. Instead of outscoring their opponents, Notre Dame wanted to get back to a 40-minute defensive effort. Tuesday night’s performance at Virginia Tech was a first step in the right direction.The Irish dominated inside in the paint and on the glass in defeating the Hokies 74-63 in Blacksburg, Va.The win snaps a two-game losing streak for the Irish (9-5, 3-2 in the Big East), and hands Virginia Tech (8-7, 1-3) its fourth loss in its last five games.Last week, Pittsburgh and Syracuse each controlled the lane against the Irish, but coach Mike Brey exploited the undersized Hokies down low. Virginia Tech had no answer for forward Torin Francis, who finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds. For the game, the Irish outscored the Hokies 32-26 in the paint. In the first half, the Irish held the Hokies to zero offensive rebounds and out-rebounded the Hokies 20-11. Overall, the Irish held a 42-37 rebounding edge.The defensive effort also improved against Virginia Tech as the Notre Dame defense held its opponent to 35.4 percent from the field. Virginia Tech’s 1-3-1 trap zone caused some problems for the Irish in the first half, forcing nine turnovers and 15 overall. On the game, that pressure defense resulted in 11 steals. But the Irish jumped out to an early, 12-2 lead behind two 3-pointers from Chris Quinn and one from Jordan Cornette. The Hokies responded with a 9-2 run to get within three. A 9-2 run of their own later in the half gave the Irish some separation as they went into the locker room up, 30-22.Notre Dame opened the second half just like they opened the game – with hot shooting. A 12-4 run put the Irish up 16 points.After seeming to solve the Virginia Tech pressure defense for most of the second half, the Irish had problems late in the game as the Hokies implemented a full-court press and got as close as seven. Cornette fouled out with 11:08 remaining and Tom Timmermans already had four fouls.Still, the Notre Dame guards broke the press and maintained the lead. Chris Thomas finished with 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting. Quinn ended up with 13 points, with eight of them coming in the first half.As a team, the Irish shot 8-of-27 from behind the arc.