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Needed Victory for Irish
By Alan Tieuli
NOTRE DAME, IN (IE) The skepticism weighed heavy
in the air.
A somnolent Joyce Center crowd of 8,643 the lowest Big East
Conference game gathering in the four seasons of the Mike Brey-era sat more as a jury than
supporters, ready to find Notre Dame guilty of underachievement. Losing the league opener to a pesky but beatable
After all, what had Notre Dame done to earn respect in a mediocre 6-3
non-conference start to the season? Hadnt
the Irish entered this game with the lowest Ratings Percentage Index (167) of any of the
Big East teams?
But hasnt Brey directed this team to three consecutive 10-win
Big East seasons and a same number of NCAA Tournament appearances? Shouldnt he be cast the benefit of the doubt?
Well, Notre Dame didnt bring the disbelievers to their feet on
this night the 63-52 victory over
After all, whats not to like in a performance that featured the
The Irish defense falling just short
of its team record for points allowed in a Big East game (51 versus Seton Hall in a 60-51
n Senior swingman Torrian Jones matching his career high in points (17) while securing career bests in offensive rebounds (seven), total rebounds (14) and minutes played (38).
n Big man Torin Francis controlling the inside with 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks as Notre Dame crushed the Mountaineers off the boards, 43-26.
And Chris Quinn providing a needed offensive spark,
nailing all three of Notre Dames three-pointers in the second-half to keep the
And, dont forget, pointed out Irish point guard Chris Thomas, were 1-0 in the Big East
now. Thats the key thing. Were ready for the most important three
months of basketball of our lives.
There can be no understating the importance of the Irish winning this
game. Saturday, Breys team travels to
Villanova, the only team in Big East play it has never beat (0-8). Next Monday, its Big Monday at undefeated
You know, he admitted post-game, I dont know
what our team is. Not yet. But hes getting a picture, and he knows that
to be successful Jones the senior captain has to be very involved.
I was talking to him on the phone over (holiday) break, and
then quite a bit when everyone got back here, Brey said. We have to just getting back to simplifying
his role. Get on the backboard, get us
defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds. He
really got into a flow doing that. He got
comfortable in the basketball game rebounding the ball.
And Jones also got comfortable hounding the bejeezus out of
(Jones) grabbed me as soon as we got into the locker-room and
said Hey, did we snap it. How many did
he get?, related Brey.
Oh yeah, I knew about the streak big-time, said Jones. Schifino is from
Im familiar with him, hes familiar with me,
Jones said. I tried to get into his head a little bit, talking a little trash. Maybe it worked.
Also working was Jones offensive game. He was seven-for-eight from the field, all but one
of the shots point blank in the flow of the offense. Jones
glided and played above the rim, reminiscent in some ways of
I know its my turn to lead now, said Jones. Putting
up good numbers in this game was important. It
shows what Im capable of, what the team is capable of.
Jones production did mask some Irish trouble spots. The squad shot just three-for-19 on three-pointers
and Thomas was just five-for-17, with oft-questionable projectile selection. But
I would take Torrian Jones any day of the week, said
Torrians work ethic rubbed off on us, said Francis
who is now 27-for-40 in field goals his last four games (all Irish victories). Now we have to maintain it during a tough
Notre Dame never trailed in this contest, scoring the first bucket
and bolting out to an 11-4 edge by the first TV timeout.
Quinn hit Notre Dames first three at of the second-half
to expand the lead to 11 (38-27) and the game was put away when Quinn hit another and
Jones followed with an old-fashioned three in the paint with a foul. That flurry made it 48-32 with to go.
And the night ended with spectacular praise for Jones from Brey.
One suspects that Brey is referring to athleticism, something that the Irish are going to need to win back the skeptics. This was a nice start.
IRISHEYES GAME NOTES: OK, well admit it, this space is a fan of
(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes Magazine and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For subscription information on IrishEyes Magazine please visit www.irisheyes.com or call 888-501-5752)