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Irish break Bloomington curse

Pat Leonard | Sunday, December 12, 2004

BLOOMINGTON — The last time Notre Dame beat Indiana in Bloomington — let’s just say it hasn’t happened in a while.

“I was listening to the Bee Gees the last time the Irish won here,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I really was. I probably still have the 8-tracks.”

Chris Thomas scored 13 points and Notre Dame beat Indiana at Assembly Hall, 55-45, in the first Irish win in Bloomington since a 73-67 victory on Dec. 11, 1973.

Four Notre Dame players — Torin Francis (13 points), Dennis Latimore (12), Chris Quinn (13) and Thomas — finished in double figures. The Irish (4-1) improved to 1-1 on the road after losing by one-point to Michigan at Crisler Arena Saturday.

“This is a great win for us,” Brey said. “We were very disappointed in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon because we were in that situation like we were this evening, and we couldn’t finish it. But I think we’ve handled it well since that. We prepared very business-like.”

Thomas and Quinn, who shot a combined 3-for-24 against Michigan, prepared for Indiana with late-night shooting sessions during the week,

“Chris and I were real disappointed, real down about it,” Thomas said. “But we moved on, got into the gym and said, ‘We can’t let this happen again.’”

Hoosiers star guard Bracey Wright saw his fortunes reversed, as well, though in the opposite direction of the Irish guards. Wright scored only six points after dropping 28 on Connecticut Dec. 4.

The Irish built an 11-point second half lead and never let the Hoosiers get closer than five points with eight minutes, two seconds remaining.

Notre Dame played a three-quarter court, 1-2-2 defense and fell back into a 2-3, match-up zone for the majority of the game, slowing the pace and preventing Indiana from making a comeback like Michigan’s late, ten-point charge.

“When you hold an IU team to however many points we held them to, it’s a great effort on the defensive end,” Quinn said. “Our big guys did a great job of rebounding … and I think it’s our first time playing the 2-3 [zone] for a long period of time, and it’s a great weapon for us.”

D.J. White played the high post and led the Hoosiers with 13 points, but Notre Dame’s zone took Indiana out of its more comfortable man-to-man offense.

“We made their bigs be players, and I don’t think many teams have made them do that,” Thomas said. “They worked from the free throw line and they didn’t know whether to shoot the 15-footer or go in there and make some plays, and it was tough for them.”

Brey said the Irish were pleased Thomas could win in his home state as a former Mr. Basketball out of Pike High School in Indianapolis.

“I was very happy Chris Thomas, the Indiana guy, could win,” Brey said. “I wanted it more for him than anything.”

Up 23-20 at halftime, Notre Dame began the second half with 13 straight points from its starting frontcourt of Francis and Latimore. The Irish offense, as Brey said, did not hit full stride, but Indiana could not handle the Notre Dame inside game.

“For Torin, myself, Rick and even Rob Kurz coming off the bench, we don’t feel like anybody can guard us or stop us,” Latimore said. “So until they do that, we’re going to keep dumping it down.”