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Irish leash Hoyas, need wins in New York

Pat Leonard | Friday, March 5, 2004

Critics have spent the week saying the Irish must win at least the next three games to have a shot at the NCAA tournament.One down, two to go.Notre Dame defeated Georgetown 61-48 on Thursday night behind 19 points from high point man Chris Thomas and 18 points from Thomas’ backcourt mate, Chris Quinn. One of the main stories in a dominant performance by the Irish was the Hoyas’ shooting, or the Irish defense – or both.”We really guarded them and made them take tough shots,” Thomas said. “Nobody really got good looks, and if they did, we were blocking out and limiting their second chance opportunities.”While Rick Cornett and Tom Timmermans combined for 18 rebounds, Georgetown out-rebounded Notre Dame. This was due, however, to longer shots and longer rebounds, Thomas said.Georgetown shot 28.1 percent from the floor, compared to 37.5 percent for Notre Dame. The Hoyas’ leading scorer Gerald Riley (17.8 points per game) finished with just 10 points, shooting 3-for-13 from the field. Riley combined with guard Ashanti Cook and center Courtland Freeman to shoot 9-for-40. Forward Brandon Bowman led Georgetown with 17 points and 15 rebounds, the 12th straight game he has led the team in boardsThree blocks from Jordan Cornette (two points, 10 rebounds, four assists) and tough man-to-man defense from Cornette, Jones and the rest of the team held the Hoyas to the lowest point total for an Irish opponent this season.Torrian Jones is a senior and role player, one who has taken a larger leadership role this season but still remained disciplined on the defensive end. His perfection the man-to-man is part of what held Georgetown to such a shooting percentage.”[Our defense has been] really keen on covering your man by yourself,” Jones said. “[Before], you got a big man like Torin [Francis] back there that can block shots and give you that inside presence … you have a little room for error. But with him not back there sometimes, you got a four-guard lineup out there. So you really have to concentrate on keeping your man in front of you and not making your team get in help, because you can’t afford create mismatches.”Defense is not the only method of preventing a team from scoring. Protecting the ball on offense prevents running teams like Georgetown from scoring in transition. Notre Dame made sure the Hoyas did not rush them out of their offense, turning the ball over just five times all game, though Georgetown leads the Big East with an average of 10.64 steals per game.”We played with a lot of poise, and we’re able to limit our turnovers lately because of our new offense that we’ve implemented and just the tempo we’ve adapted to,” Thomas said. “We’re aware of how well they get up into teams, and they forced me into a lot of turnovers last year at their place, but I was just trying to make sure that as a team we handled the ball well.”After a Thomas turnover at the 16:14 mark of the first half, Notre Dame went 24 minutes and four seconds before its next turnover. Solid guard play from Thomas and Quinn is the key ingredient in preventing turnovers, and it is also, coach Mike Brey believes, what wins the Irish ball games.Quinn and Thomas must lead the charge on Saturday at Saint John’s and in the first round of the Big East tournament.