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Thomas hits game-winning 3-pointer as Irish squeak past St. John’s

Matt Lozar | Monday, January 17, 2005

The only thing that could keep Chris Thomas off the floor during a Big East game was a concussion.And that was for only eight minutes.On his only field goal attempt of the second half, Thomas nailed a game-winning 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds remaining as the Irish (11-3, 3-1 Big East) survived St. John’s’ (6-7, 0-3) upset bid 67-66 Saturday at the Joyce Center.”I never had a concussion before,” Thomas said. “When they told me I had a concussion and said I wouldn’t be playing the rest of the game, I think that’s what hurt me more than not knowing where I was.”On the last possession of the first half, Thomas was guarding the Red Storm’s Darius Hill who went long on the inbounds play. Thomas ran straight into a pick from Red Storm forward Lamont Hamilton.Needing help to get to the locker room, Thomas’ condition became the hot topic.The coaching staff heard from team physician Dr. Jim Moriarty that it was doubtful Thomas would return to the game.”I’m surprised he played [after] the way he looked at halftime,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We went into the second half thinking he wouldn’t be back.”When Thomas got the same message, even being groggy, he didn’t like what he heard.”When he told me I wasn’t going to play, I was like, ‘Are you serious? This is Big East, my senior year,'” Thomas said. When I first came in I was nauseated. My feet were heavy and my head was light. I couldn’t even walk into the locker room without escorts. When they told me I couldn’t play, that’s when you put everything else aside and make a sacrifice.”Sporting a quarter-sized bump on the left side of his forehead, Thomas heard from Moriarty he had to wait 20 minutes before heading back to the court. Thomas watched the beginning of the second half in the locker room while listening to the announcer and Joyce Center crowd.Then Thomas went down to The Pit, ran some suicide sprints, and after talking with Moriarty some more, got clearance to return to the game and checked in with 11:36 remaining.”Yeah, [the second half] was clear to me, but I still have a serious headache,” Thomas said. “You just feel light and carefree. I just wasn’t getting into the hype of the game until it really hit me with 3 minutes left.”The game stayed close because of the play of Hill who led the Red Storm with 30 points, including 5-of-6 shooting on 3-pointers, and Hamilton who had 17. But in the second half, and specifically down the stretch, St. John’s free throw shooting prevented them from pulling the upset.The Red Storm made 10-of-20 free throws after halftime, and only 1-of-4 in the last minute. That gave the Irish a couple of chances down the stretch.Down 65-64 with just under a minute remaining, Thomas found a wide-open Falls. Known for hitting big-time shots, Falls’ attempt went around the rim and out. “I thought we had a great look with Colin, it just didn’t fall for us so I knew we were going to get an opportunity coming back,” Thomas said.After Hill split two free throws, Thomas brought the ball down court. He dribbled to the right, looked at Torin Francis who was battling for position on the blocks, but Thomas used a shot fake and pass fake on Hill who slipped and left Thomas with a wide-open look at the game-winner.”You know what, the next person that I see out there who has something negative to say about Chris Thomas, I going to say, ‘Watch this game, to watch this shot,'” Irish senior Jordan Cornette said. “I think that in a nutshell tells you what kind of guy he is. Any naysayers out there are crazy because he’s one of the best guys I’ve been on the court with. “When he took that shot, I don’t know if you knew, but I knew it was going down.”