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Cooling off the ‘Canes

Matt Lozar | Thursday, January 29, 2004

Irish coach Mike Brey had a simple pre-game message for forward Jordan Cornette.”Guard, you got [Darius] Rice, rebound the ball, and when you get an open shot, take it,” Brey said.Cornette held Rice, a first-team all Big East preseason selection, to 9-of-21 shooting, blocked four shots, led the Irish with 11 rebounds and scored 12 points in Notre Dame’s 72-62 win over Miami Wednesday night at the Joyce Center.”You get to a point where you say, just go out there and play basketball,” Cornette said. “Obviously I still care just as much as I did for the first game of the year. You just have to go out there and play basketball. It’s a basic game.” “When I play with a free mind, I play a lot better. I think that mentality showed tonight.”Cornette had been struggling recently getting into the flow of the game. But Wednesday night, Brey inserted Cornette into the starting lineup to shut down Rice and just play his game.After the game, Brey had nothing but praise for Cornette.”Jordan Cornette was fabulous tonight guarding [Rice], what he gave us offensively and on the backboard,” Brey said.Coming into the game knowing their defensive effort had to improve, the Irish (10-6, 4-2 in the Big East) clamped down on the Hurricanes (13-7, 3-3 in the Big East). Rice scored 26 points but had to take 21 shots. Notre Dame guard Torrian Jones held Miami’s leading scorer Robert Hite to 11 points.Forcing those players, along with the rest of the Hurricanes take tough shots, led to Miami’s 37.5 percent shooting percentage – something that Irish assistant coach Sean Kearney wrote and underlined on the dry erase board in the locker room after the game.That’s something the Irish want to carry over to Saturday’s road game at Rutgers.”We were able to put together a pretty good 40-minute stretch on the defensive end,” Notre Dame guard Chris Quinn said. “Now the challenge for us is doing it in back to back games.”Quinn also put together a solid individual performance. All season, Brey has tried to get Quinn to be more aggressive and not worry about turnovers coming from trying to create on the offensive end. Wednesday night Quinn did just that, driving to the hole, kicking it to the open player and finding his own shot. Quinn scored 15 points and had eight assists on a night when that offensive production was needed. Notre Dame guard Chris Thomas struggled from the field scoring only seven points and not getting his first field goal, one of two on the night, until 16 minutes remained in the second half.On nights when Thomas can’t get his offensive game going, he is looked to do other things on offense to get the Irish the balanced offensive attack they showed Wednesday.”I wasn’t even looking for my shot today,” Thomas said. “I was just getting my teammates the ball and they carried the load.”The Irish came out early and established Torin Francis in the post as Francis scored Notre Dame’s first six points and had nine in the first seven minutes of the game. Miami responded later in the half with an 11-0 run to turn a 17-11 deficit into a 22-17 lead. But then Miami went on one of their two stretches in the game where the Hurricanes went five minutes or more without a field goal, allowing the Irish to get the lead back and control the rest of the game.Up 33-32 coming out of the locker room, the Hurricanes struggled through their second scoreless drought allowing the Irish to build a comfortable lead with a 13-3 run.Francis finished with a team-high 17 points, and the Irish had four players in double figures. The Irish continue to have trouble shooting from behind the arc connecting on only 30.8 percent of their 3-pointers (4-of-13).