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20 … and 1

Matt Lozar | Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Trailing in the second half was nothing new to Boston College.

Leaving the court as losers was.

Behind 23 points from Colin Falls and a nine assist-zero turnover performance from Chris Thomas, Notre Dame (14-6, 6-4 Big East) handed Boston College (20-1, 9-1) its first loss of the season 68-65 at the Joyce Center Tuesday night.

“They were 20-0, the No. 4 ranked team in the country and this is the Big East,” Irish forward Torin Francis said. “Everyone was talking about how BC was undefeated. Yeah they were, and they are a good team, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t lose.”

One of four Irish players in double figures, Falls found himself with wide-open looks the entire night, something he isn’t used to after gaining a reputation as one of the Big East’s top 3-point shooters. Boston College came in with the same game plan of wanting to prevent Falls from getting those looks. Its failure to execute resulted in Falls being open all night.

“We just made some mistakes to allow them to get some opportunities. We just have to learn from them,” Boston College coach Al Skinner said. “That’s [the] first time I thought mentally that we made mistakes. That’s something we can’t just allow to happen.”

Thomas came into Tuesday night with some of his heaviest criticism in his career as Notre Dame’s point guard. The senior looked like a different player against the Eagles and his quarterbacking of the game led to the win.

“He played his game and didn’t let the weight of the world get on his shoulders. When’s he calm like that, I think he’s one of the best players in college basketball,” Irish co-captain Jordan Cornette said. “When he made a mistake, he knew it wasn’t the end of the world and kept playing. That’s why he was so successful.”

The Irish broke open a 39-36 second-half lead with a 10-2 run, highlighted by two 3-pointers from Falls.

In 12 of its wins, Boston College had trailed in the second half, four times by double-digits. Seeing Boston College come out of a timeout with an 8-0 run to cut the lead down to 49-46 wasn’t surprising.

Throughout the rest of the half, the Irish steadily kept at least a three-point lead, bumping it up to eight points with 4:08 remaining. Down the str-etch, the Eagles were able to get the lead back down to three points, thanks to continued struggles from the free-throw line by the Irish.

But Boston College couldn’t make enough shots in the last minute to get any closer.

In the first half, Boston College opened up a 15-6 lead, attacking Notre Dame’s man-to-man defense. Irish coach Mike Brey switched his team to a 2-3 zone it would continue to play for the majority of the game, forcing the Golden Eagles into hoisting up 22 3-pointers – more than twice their season average.

The Irish used a quick 12-2 run, scoring on five straight possessions after the Golden Eagles built that early nine-point lead to go ahead 18-17.

The Irish took the lead for good with a 10-0 run later in the first half.

With the fourth straight game against a ranked opponent on the horizon at Pittsburgh Saturday, Brey knows his team can’t get too high after this national-headline win. Yes, it improves that tournament resume, but it is only one win – regardless of how big it is.

“We’re going to enjoy it. Like I said after UConn, there are no grand statements here,” Brey said. “I would think you dealt with a group in the locker room that was pretty enjoying, but not giddy.

“It’s a great league win, it’s powerful, but we know we have Pittsburgh coming.”