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Men win against Harvard

Matt Lozar | Monday, November 22, 2004

Irish coach Mike Brey summed it up best.

“If you get 18 more shots than your opponent, turn them over 19 times but only score 66 points it’s going to be interesting,” Brey said.

It was interesting to say the least Friday night in Notre Dame’s 66-59 win over Harvard in the season opener at the Joyce Center.

After building a 16-point halftime lead, the Irish allowed the Crimson back into the game in the second half with lapses in defensive intensity and offensive efficiency.

“I just think it was focus,” Irish forward Jordan Cornette said. “We were looking up at the scoreboard and saw we had a comfortable lead. I don’t think in college basketball no matter who you are playing, you can get comfortable. It’s going to be a battle for 40 minutes. I think we saw we got up double digits and thought we started playing comfortable and you can’t do that.

“When you smell blood you have to go for the kill.”

The Irish (1-0) used a 17-3 run in the middle of the first half to break open a game tied at eight to a 25-11 advantage. During that run the Irish had five steals and in the half, the Irish had 10 steals and forced 13 Harvard (0-1) turnovers overall.

Chris Quinn led the Irish in the first 20 minutes with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting as the team shot 45 percent.

All of those turnovers led to a number of easy baskets at the other end, but in the second half, those easy baskets stopped and Quinn, along with the rest of the Irish went ice cold.

In the second half, Harvard only committed six turnovers, outrebounded the Irish 25-16 and had a 46 percent field goal percentage compared to Notre Dame’s 21 percent.

That allowed the Crimson to chip away at the Irish lead. When the Irish couldn’t force turnovers, their offense stalled relying on jump shots and their outside shooters went cold – Chris Thomas, Colin Falls and Quinn went a combined 4-for-22 in the second half.

“From about the 15-minute mark to the five-minute mark, we weren’t moving or running the floor. You have to get a couple there,” Brey said. “I can’t complain because I think back to the looks we got for our shooters, you’ve got to take those. Offensive efficiency put a lot of pressure on us tonight.”

Harvard tied the game at 57 with just over six minutes remaining. The Crimson rode 7-foot sophomore’s Brian Cusworth’s 13 second-half points in the comeback.

The Irish then clamped down on defense, not allowing the Crimson to score for a stretch of 5:41 and slowly built a six-point lead by making their free throws and a tough jumper from Thomas.

After playing in the first half like all of the preseason expectations said they would, the Irish struggled in the second half to get an opening night win.

In the end, that’s all that matters.

“It’s the first game of the season, it’s one of those games where you feel like you got a loss, but you look back at that Central Michigan game last year,” Irish forward Dennis Latimore said. “Me personally, I’m happy we got the W. If it wasn’t by 30, 4 or 10 whatever, I’ll take that win.”