Thomas Pulls an Iverson

In the home of the Philadelphia 76ers, Notre Dame guard Chris Thomas turned in an effort reminiscent of Allen Iverson. His shots may have not reflected the best judgment but, hey, who can argue with the results? An 82-78 victory over Villanova has the Irish 2-0 in the Big East and the future is looking bright. Alan Tieuli has all the details, courtside from the Wachovia Center.

Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™ Magazine

January 10, 2004

Thomas Pulls An Iverson;
 Irish End 'Nova Losing Streak

By Alan Tieuli
IrishEyes Magazine

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 10, 2004 (IE) – After his team had wrapped up a satisfying, come-from-behind victory, Mike Brey sat in a small interview area in the bowels of the massive, ice-cold Wachovia Center, home of the Philadelphia 76ers. 

“You know, there’s a guy in this building who wears #3 who makes bad shots,” Brey said, referring to the 76ers Allen Iverson.   Chris Thomas makes bad shots.” 

Often at the most critical times.   Thomas’ banked, straight-on three-pointer with 2:08 remaining tied the game and then Notre Dame simply used its guile and experience down the stretch to defeat Villanova, 82-78, before 14,121 evenly-divided supporters in the City of Brotherly Love. 

With the victory, Notre Dame is off to a 2-0 start in the Big East for the first time since 2000 and increased its Big East-best road mark to 15-11 over the past three-plus seasons.  The Irish are 8-3 overall, have won six in a row, and head next to undefeated Pittsburgh on Monday. 

And Notre Dame has an agenda. 

“We’re the streak breakers,” said senior guard Torrian Jones.   “(Wednesday) we broke Drew Schifino’s double-figure scoring streak (48 games).   Today we snapped our winless streak (0-8) against Villanova.  Monday, it’s Pittsburgh unbeaten (32 games) home streak.” 

It was leadership from Thomas, Jones and a surprising Tom Timmermans that put this one in the left-hand column.  Villanova led by seven with five minutes to play and six (72-66) with 3:27 remaining.  But the 8-5 Wildcats – who start four sophomores and a freshman – wilted in the critical final possessions. 

Timmermans got the rally going by hitting a foul-line jumper with 2:40 to play.  The sturdy Dutchman had seven points and four rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench.  He also set a punishing screen that freed Thomas for his game-tying three.

"(Brey) and I watched tape (Friday night)," said Thomas. "Some of the shots I take are from a little deep.  Good players have a tendency to take bad shots and good players have a tendency to make bad shots." 

After the three, Villanova rushed a shot on its end and then compounded the problem by inexplicably fouling Chris Quinn 30 feet from the basket.  “I think,” admitted Wildcat coach Jay Wright, “we just lost our poise.” 

Quinn made both free throws and then Timmermans collared a tough defensive rebound on the other end.  That led to a dunk by Torin Francis (11 points in 20 foul-plagued minutes) off a Quinn feed with 59 seconds left.    

The dunk culminated a 12-2 Irish run and Villanova never got closer than three again.  It was a victory worth woofing about, but the Domers were rather low-key.  After all, they are used to this. 

“Our identity is to be good on the road,” said Brey.  “We’re proud of that.” 

And Brey is proud of his junior point guard, Thomas, who scored a game-high 26 points, 21 in the second-half.  Jones finished with his second consecutive double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds.  Quinn, a sophomore who plays like a senior, had 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. 

“We’re older than them, and it showed,” said Brey. “Quinn and Thomas are two fearless guys, Tom Timmermans gave us good minutes.  Our seniors played like seniors and it was enough.” 

“We knew they were a young team that would give us our chances,” said Thomas. 

The Irish also received a stellar first-half effort from freshman Colin Falls.  The kid with a look (and game) straight out of Milan High circa 1954 matched his collegiate high with 12 points, all before intermission, with four consecutive three-point shots.  Notre Dame needed that lift since Francis picked up two ticky-tack fouls in the opening three minutes and he found a home on the chilly bench. 

Villanova is a fun team to watch.   Allan Ray and Randy Foye – who each scored 18 points – are dangerous off the dribble, can shoot it, and have crowd-pleasing flair.  Freshman point guard Mike Nardi (15 points) outplayed Thomas for a half and is cut from the same mold as Gerry McNamara and Donnie McGrath.   Jason Fraser (17 rebounds) and Curtis Sumpter (14 points, nine rebounds) are a strong frontcourt.   

“They are young, they have been injured, and they have good days ahead for them,” predicted Brey. 

And the coach considers this victory a validation point for his team. 

“For us to be credible,” Brey admitted, “we got to beat Villanova.  We hadn’t done that.”  In fact, the Irish had been blasted (85-58, 86-69) in their last two visits here.  


IRISHEYES GAME NOTES:  Matt Carroll was cut by the Portland Trailblazers on Wednesday, one day before his guaranteed full-year rookie salary would have kicked in.  If it bothered him, it wasn’t showing today.  The class act took a red-eye Friday night to sit in courtside seats behind the Notre Dame bench.  His presence was an inspiration to Thomas. “We’re real close, and I followed him in the NBA all this season,” Thomas said. “He was a great teammate.”……Schifino’s suspension by West Virginia for conduct detrimental to the team apparently was related to his verbal outburst following his use in the loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday…..Notre Dame had not beaten Villanova since an 81-68 victory on January 21, 1984.  That Irish squad went 21-12 and lost in the NIT final to Michigan…..ND has never gone 3-0 to start Big East play.  The last time it went 2-0, Matt Doherty’s 1999-2000 team lost game three at Syracuse in humbling fashion on a icy Sunday afternoon, 80-57…..Brey’s first 50 games in the Big East: 33-17 (66-percent).  Not bad…….Brey’s intrepid administrative assistant, Stephanie Reed, organized a large group for an overnight bus trip (10 hours) to cheer on the Irish.  The game had a mini-NCAA Tournament feel with an equal number of supporters for both teams…..In reality, Villanova has no home court edge at the Wachovia Center.  In nine years of playing occasional home games in the facility, the Wildcats’ record is a miserable 10-14……Many who attended probably also got their last glimpse of Veterans Stadium, which shares the same complex.  The much-maligned former home of the Eagles and Phillies will be imploded within the next month……One thing to keep an eye on down the road is how well the Irish legs hold up.  Jones, Jordan Cornette (fairly invisible in this game with three points and three rebounds in 34 minutes), Francis, Quinn and Thomas averaged a combined 119 minutes per game last year.  This year that quintet is averaging 170.  

(Alan Tieuli is the Managing Editor of IrishEyes Magazine and can be reached at  For subsciption information on IrishEyes Magazine please visit or call 888-501-5752) Top Stories