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Quinn to run point more against Eagles

Andrew Soukup | Wednesday, February 4, 2004

With his team mired in a variety of offensive problems, Irish coach Mike Brey said he expected Chris Thomas to relinquish his point guard responsibilities to Chris Quinn in the early minutes of tonight’s game at Boston College.The move, not a demotion for Thomas as much as it just a change of position, is designed to keep the junior fresh as the Irish head into a difficult February slate of games. And even though Thomas will work more from the shooting guard position, he will still handle the ball during the game.”The thing is, you have to put your best player in a position to get some easy looks,” Brey said. “Letting Thomas handle it the whole time is tough.”Brey attributed some of Thomas’ struggles to the fact that, as Notre Dame’s best player, he faces the brunt of the opposing defense. And Thomas has played at least 38 minutes a game 12 times this season and is averaging a team-high 18 points a game.But Thomas has often struggled offensively at times, too. He is recording career lows in 3-point percentage (29 percent) and field goal percentage (36 percent) and in his last three games, has recorded 13 assists to 12 turnovers.”It’s going to help,” Torrian Jones said. “Chris is an asset who has been doing a lot for us. He took some questionable shots [against Rutgers], but that was because he was trying to help us out.”No member of the Notre Dame team has publicly criticized Thomas, who entered the lineup in the second half of a win against Miami last week to a smattering of boos. Brey chastised those who had turned on Thomas in his Monday press conference, saying Thomas is integral to Notre Dame’s success.”It’s one of those things where both of us is comfortable with the ball,” Quinn said. “It’ll give him some chances to come off screens and score.”Thomas, who is just seven assists away from setting the school record for career assists, will probably still run the point at times against Boston College. But Brey hopes the change of pace will relieve some of the pressure Thomas faces game after game.The shift isn’t a dramatic one, either. For most of the season, Quinn and Thomas have run the point interchangeably. Brey simply wants Quinn to start tonight’s game as the primary ball handler.”We give teams different looks in that they can both run the point for us,” Jordan Cornette said. “To me, it seems like all year we’ve been playing with two point guards. It doesn’t matter who they call out in the starting lineup.”Tonight’s game against Boston College (13-4, 2-5 in the Big East), brings the Irish face-to-face with Craig Smith, ranked third in the Big East in scoring with 21 points a game since league play started. But it also marks the beginning of a difficult stretch that sees the Irish play seven straight games against teams whose RPI is among the nation’s top 30.Notre Dame has beaten no team ranked that highly this season.”We gotta get a few,” Brey said. “This is the toughest February ever in this program’s history.”We don’t have to go 8-0, but we do have to win a few.”