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Men’s Basketball: Home away from home

Matt Lozar | Friday, January 21, 2005

In the middle of their three-game road trip, the Irish get to travel to their second home.Riding a two-game road Big East winning streak, the Irish (12-3, 4-1 Big East) face the Hoyas (11-5 3-2) in the MCI Center Sunday, a building where Notre Dame has won its last five games.And there have been some memorable ones.In the 2002 BB&T Classic, Notre Dame beat No. 9 Maryland and No. 2 Texas during a week where the Irish defeated three top-10 teams and jumped from unranked to No. 10 in the AP poll. The season before, Notre Dame and Georgetown played the longest game in school history – a four-overtime classic where the Irish prevailed 116-111.”How can you forget? It feels like we played an entire day there,” Irish senior Jordan Cornette said. “Georgetown loves to give us games and we love to give them some.”Chris Thomas – then a freshman – played all 60 minutes and his feet reminded him in the locker room afterwards. “I just remember that my feet were black and blue and purple after the game. I just remember I would have loved to play 20 more minutes,” Thomas said. “It was a great game, full of talented players. “We almost play better there than anywhere else. We go in there with a huge amount of confidence.”Coming off two games where they have made 13 3-pointers – for the first time in school history – the Irish have used their hot shooting to move into third place in the Big East. Colin Falls is leading the Big East in 3-point shooting percentage at 46 percent and is becoming more confident every time he steps on the court. Chris Quinn is fifth in the conference in 3-point shooting, and Thomas never lacks confidence in his shot.One of the main reasons the team has been shooting so well behind the arc is the wide-open looks all of the shooters are getting. That’s something Thomas knows must continue Sunday.”We have to continue to do what we do well is get each other wide-opens shots,” Thomas said. “Screening for each other, our bigs getting good screens.”Hot shooting early in the game against the Mountaineers on Wednesday allowed the Irish to build a double-digit first-half lead. The Mountaineers were never able to make a serious challenge as the Irish played arguably their most complete and best game of the season.Playing a complete game has been the goal of this team since it started back in November. They finally did it Wednesday.”The thing that excites most of the guys on this team is the ability to put it together for 40 minutes. We didn’t at any time of the game lose focus,” Cornette said. “There was no [point] where we appeared to be flat. When they started making a push, we maintained it, sustained it and kept going.”Sunday starts a stretch of five straight games against teams in the top 50 of the RPI – a prime opportunity for the Irish to build their NCAA tournament resume. After entering conference play with an RPI somewhere in the 200s, just five games into the Big East schedule has improved their standing to the high 50s. This is a chance for the Irish to measure up against postseason-caliber teams and to determine how anxious they will be as Selection Sunday nears.”Going up against some of the top teams in the nation, it shows you where you’re at as a basketball team,” Quinn said. “We have to take it one game at a team, stay focused and go from there.”Sunday’s game is set to tip-off at 12 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN Classic.