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St. Josephs proves to be anything but a pushover

Matt Lozar | Friday, November 5, 2004

The unusually numerous beads of sweat on his forehead told the story.Even if it was just 31 minutes against a Division II school in the opening exhibition game, Irish guard Chris Thomas was drained.”We have to work on our conditioning out there a little more,” Thomas said. “We won’t see anybody pressing on offense like that the rest of the year. It was incredible to see how fast they were getting up and down the court.”The major reason Thomas was exhausted after the game can be attributed to the fact he was just cleared to return to the court Aug. 10, and right now Irish coach Mike Brey said it will just take time to get Thomas back to where he usually is.”He’s getting there. We’re at a point now where he has to play his way into shape,” Brey said. “He used to not even blink at 35 minutes. He was laboring a little.”But it wasn’t just Thomas who looked like he was laboring at the end of the game. Other Irish players seemed to be dragging by the time the final horn sounded. Brey attributed that to some of the offseason injuries and the inability of the team to not run 5-on-5 for a long period of time in practice.”We usually practice longer and go 5-on-5 in live and play ourselves into shape,” Brey said. “We’re not there yet, but I didn’t think we’d would be. We need that, really starting [today] after practice.” Kurz impressesIn his first collegiate game, Irish forward Rob Kurz fit into Brey’s rotation and didn’t seem to be lost at all on the court.For Brey, that wasn’t a surprise.”Kurz plays older than a freshman. Our guys respect him because that’s what he’s done all summer,” Brey said. “He doesn’t try and do anything he can’t do. He just fits in and makes hustle plays. Obviously, [I’m] very impressed, he knows what we needs and has been very impressive.”Kurz said he didn’t have the expected first-game butterflies, but was more excited to finally put on that Irish uniform and play at the Joyce Center. “It was definitely a good experience and have been looking forward to it for a long time,” Kurz said.Athleticism showsGranted, Saint Joseph’s tallest player was only 6-foot-8, but the Irish made a bunch of athletic plays Thursday night.Russell Carter took an alley-oop from Chris Quinn in the first half and also came flying from the backcourt to tip in a Thomas miss.But the highlight of the night belonged to Thomas and Dennis Lattimore. Off a timeout, Thomas hit Lattimore for an alley-oop. Seven blocked shots by six different players filled out the stat sheet.Quick hitsThe Irish shot 53 percent in the first half but only 33 percent in the second. … Connecting on 11-of-23 (48 percent) 3-pointers allowed the Irish to slowly open up a lead. … The shorter and smaller Pumas outrebounded the Irish 44-41. … Saint Joseph’s brought about 200 fans to the Joyce Center and spent Wednesday night in South Bend to prepare for the game. … Brey said Rick Cornett might do some things in practice today and be back to full speed on Monday.