Thomas struggles in Irish loss
Matt Lozar | Monday, February 2, 2004
The Irish probably wish Rutgers were switching conferences next year.Eleven days after winning at Virginia Tech, who is joining the ACC next year, the Irish lost 81-70 at the RAC Saturday in a loss that has the Irish feeling they are cursed when playing in Piscataway, N.J.Unlike last season, when the Scarlet Knights jumped out to a 43-19 lead in the first half en route to a 95-80 victory, the Irish were able to stay in this game during the first half, holding a 38-34 advantage after the first 20 minutes.But then the second half started.Over the first 11 minutes of the second half, the Irish (10-7, 4-3 in the Big East) shot 1-of-12 from the field, committed five turnovers and scored only six points.Rutgers (12-6, 4-4 Big East) took advantage of Notre Dame’s lack of offense to start the half and went on a 26-6 run to take a 60-44 lead and effectively put the game away. In the first half, Rutgers didn’t attempt a free throw but took advantage of the high number of fouls called in the second half to make 21-of-25 attempts from the line.Near the end of that run, Notre Dame forward Jordan Cornette, who is usually calm and collected on the court, let himself get mentally taken out of the game and let the crowd get even rowdier.Cornette was called for a moving screen, his fourth foul, with 13:07 remaining. Rutgers forward Herve Lamizana then bumped Cornette. Cornette retaliated, getting in the face of Lamizana and pushing Quincy Douby to the floor. Douby exaggerated his fall, and Cornette was called for a technical foul. The technical counts also as a personal foul, and Cornette fouled out.The Irish were able to cut the large Rutgers lead to eight points twice, but they never got any closer. When the Irish were down 65-57 with 5:04 to play, Rutgers went on an 11-2 run to go up 76-59 and stifle any hopes of an Irish comeback.Last year, it was former Scarlet Knight Jerome Coleman connecting on 7-of-12 3-pointers to help Rutgers cruise to an easy win. This year, it was the freshman Douby coming off the bench and making 4-of-6 from behind the arc en route to a game-high 24 points. Notre Dame guard Chris Thomas continued to struggle at the RAC. In his freshman year, Thomas shot 0-of-14 from the field. Thomas connected on only 5-of-18 field goal attempts Saturday and scored 11 points.Irish forward Torin Francis led the Irish in scoring for the second straight game. He scored 23 points Saturday on 8-of-15 shooting. Chris Quinn, who rolled his ankle in the first half, still managed to play 38 minutes and score 19 points.