Matt Lozar | Thursday, March 18, 2004
Rivalry games are known for weird occurrences – and 38 years in between games featuring Notre Dame and Purdue didn’t stop that trend.
In front of a split Joyce Center crowd Wednesday night, the Irish overcame making only six second half field goals to defeat the Boilermakers 71-59 and advance to the second round of the NIT.
“I don’t know if we had a better atmosphere in there all year and we’ve had some great games,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
As the Irish struggled from the field in the second half – not scoring their first field goal until a Chris Thomas jumper with 10:35 left in the game – they unexpectedly rode the perfect free throw shooting of Rick Cornett.
Cornett, a 64 percent free throw shooter, made all eight of his attempts against the Boilermakers en route to scoring a career-high 16 points.
“Free throws are a big part of our game and they are something we really need to depend on because we get fouled a lot,” Cornett said. “Obviously I was happy to go out there and make my free throws.”
Cornett’s performance Wednesday was his second straight game with a career high in points. He has given the Irish a steady low post presence they have missed after losing Torin Francis to injury in the middle of February.
“Rick Cornett comes in and we make post feeds and we get fouled,” Brey said. “Our team has kind of reinvented ourselves a couple of times.”
Purdue presented the Irish with a tough, physical matchup that the Irish usually see in Big East contests. The Boilermakers didn’t dominate the glass, but did pull down 12 offensive rebounds compared to only six for the Irish.
“They are a tough team. That’s Big East basketball and Big Ten basketball at its finest right there,” Irish forward Jordan Cornette said. “We were really clashing and battling hard. I tip my hat off to them. They are a tough bunch of competitors and we are lucky to pull through today.”
The Irish struggled from the start, except for Chris Quinn, who scored the team’s first 11 points of the game and kept Purdue from taking a big early lead.
Later in the first half, the Irish finally started making their shots, ending the half by connecting on eight of their last 12 shots and held a 39-30 lead at the break.
In the second half, the Irish lost their offensive rhythm and made only six field goals in the entire 20 minutes. But their free throw shooting kept them in the game, making 16-of-18.
“It’s a weapon for us,” Notre Dame guard Torrian Jones said. “You don’t get the truth of the game by just looking at how many baskets you score.
“If you put the defense in a compromising position, they are going to foul you and you can get the two points. How good we shoot the ball from the free throw line, that’s a plus for us.”
And the weirdest thing in the game may have happened in the closing seconds. Walk-on Greg Bosl swished a half-court shot for his first career made field goal.
But on a night many Notre Dame and Purdue fans have been waiting for since 1966, the Irish were able to do enough down the stretch to get the win.
“We knew they were going to bring their Purdue fans to pack the place and we knew that our fans would be behind us supporting us like they did all year,” Jones said. “We knew the atmosphere would be electric and I think the game kind of reflected how the atmosphere was.”
uIn his last college basketball game, Purdue center Ivan Kartelo returned to the Joyce Center where he played for the Irish during his freshman and sophomore seasons. uKartelo, who was booed the entire night, scored Purdue’s first four points and finished with five points.
uThe Irish will play Saint Louis in the second round of the NIT. The game will be in Saint Louis, but the date and time of the game were not known Wednesday night and should be announced Thursday Brey said.