Victory puts Irish back in the tourney hunt
Matt Lozar | Tuesday, February 17, 2004
The Irish have officially moved to the bubble.
Behind 25 points from Chris Thomas and 22 from Chris Quinn, Notre Dame defeated Syracuse 84-72 Monday night at the Carrier Dome, the third straight Irish win against a top-30 team in the RPI.
The Irish are now 13-9 overall and 7-5 in the Big East while the Orangemen fall to 16-6 overall and 6-5 in conference.
The win was Notre Dame’s first against Syracuse since Jan. 23, 2001 when the Irish won 74-60 at the Joyce Center. Before Monday, Syracuse had won 10 of their last 11 games against Notre Dame.
Thomas reached 20 points for the fourth straight game for the first time in his career. Against the Orangemen, he was only 6-of-16 from the field but made 5-of-10 from behind the arc and 8-of-9 from the free throw line.
Monday night was also the first time this season Thomas and Quinn each scored over 20 points in the same game – something Irish coach Mike Brey has been looking for all year.
With Torin Francis out, Torrian Jones continued to crash the boards leading the Irish with 12 rebounds.
Syracuse forward Hakim Warrick recorded game-highs with 28 points and 16 rebounds. Gerry McNamara scored 20 points for Syracuse, but shot only 1-of-9 in the first half and never really got going like he usually does against the Irish.
But early on, it looked like Syracuse would continue its dominance over the Irish with McNamara scoring the first five points of the game. However, the Irish responded with a 9-2 run that got them right back in it.
After six straight Syracuse points, the Irish responded with a 23-8 run allowing the Irish to control most of the first half. That run was keyed by the Irish getting hot from 3-point range. Notre Dame started 1-of-7 on 3-pointers, but made 5-of-6 during that stretch to shred Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.
But after halftime, when the Irish led 38-29 going into the locker room, the Orangemen took a 53-52 lead by switching from their patented zone defense to man-to-man.
However, the Orangemen couldn’t sustain that defensive intensity and went back to the zone, and the Irish capitalized by going on a 16-4 run. Irish center Tom Timmermans made his first 3-pointer of the season during that stretch.
In crunch time, the Irish made 13 straight free throws to close out the game and take a major step toward the NCAA Tournament.
Thomas was named the Big East Player of the Week Monday for his efforts in Notre Dame’s wins over Connecticut and Seton Hall.
In the two games, Thomas averaged 28.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. For the season, Thomas currently ranks fifth in the Big East in scoring, averaging 19.0 per game.
Thomas won the honor once last year, sharing the honor with Miami’s Darius Rice for his play during the week of Jan. 20, 2003.
Syracuse guard Billy Edelin missed his fifth game over the past three weeks Monday night. Edelin left the team for personal reasons and doesn’t have a set date to return to the Orangemen.