Thomas Owns Joyce Center

It's been so long since the Notre Dame basketball team has been home people may have forgotten how good Chris Thomas is. If so, the freshman point guard gave them all a reminder Sunday afternoon as he scored a career-high 28 points in a 92-61 victory over Colgate. The King of the JACC has ND confident at 10-2 entering Big East play. Alan Tieuli reports.

Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

December 30, 2001

Holiday Home Cooking
Long in Coming for Irish

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com NewsService

How long has it been since Notre Dame played a home basketball game?

Bob Davie was still the head football coach.  Now, that's a long time ago.

But all seems right with Notre Dame Nation again this Sunday with Chris Thomas racing up and down the Joyce Center floor in home whites.  The freshman phenom scored a career-high 28 points in leading the 10-2 Irish past Colgate, 92-61, before a surprising sell-out crowd.

Thomas hit six-of-eight three-point shots and now is averaging 21.75 points and 8.5 assists in his four games in South Bend this year.  The Irish have won them all in comfortable fashion.

Notre Dame went 3-2 in a five-game, 32-day stint away from the Joyce Center.   It returned home without starting center Harold Swanagan, who was out with a badly sprained ankle.  It snapped the Kentuckian's Ironman string of 108 consecutive games over four seasons.   But the Irish, thanks to Thomas and a pretty good tag-team combo of Jordan Cornette and Tom Timmermans in the pivot, easily survived.

"Not having Harold Swanagan was new for us," said head coach Mike Brey. "He's kind of our glue guy.  When (Matt) Carroll or (David) Graves get a good luck, it's usually a Swanagan screen.

"I hope we have him for Villanova (next Sunday)," Brey said, referring to the Irish's Big East Conference opener, "but we don't know that."

Colgate fell to 7-3 and had a five-game winning streak snapped.  Suffice to say the Hamilton, New York Red Raiders will not see another player like Thomas this year.  His line also included seven assists, two steals and six-for-six from the foul-line.

"When Chris hasn't made shots early in games he has pressed a little bit," said Brey. "I've been telling him it's a long game, and he's going to be in for most of it, so just relax and let the game develop. He did a good job (Sunday) kicking the ball back early.  Then the shots came to him and he took advantage of the opportunities."

"I made some bad decisions early, I was indecisive in transition," said Thomas. "But coach talked to me and I played better as the game went on.  We established ourselves on defense and that led to offense."

Cornette earned the start in place of Swanagan after Brey stressed pre-game, "The kid who came in for Swanagan in New Orleans played like a man."  In this one, Cornette looked offensively like a raw freshman, missing all three of his shots in nine first-half minutes.  But Brey was exceptionally pleased with the defense of the Cincinnati Kid.

"You look at a kid like (Colgate's leading scorer) Pat Campolieta going one-for-nine from the field.  A lot of that was Jordan.  He had to eat some fouls to do it (three in the first-half, the fourth in the opening minute of the second-half), but those are the sacrifices he needs to make for us.  I thought he did a wonderful job of stepping in and doing what was necessary to help us win."

Timmermans, seeing his first concerted action of the year, had six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes.   He is very rough around the edges (he fouled a three-point jump shot barely one second after entering), but definitely can be classified as having an upside. 

"You look at Tom and he's huge," said Carroll. "He's just a big, big boy and when he goes in there and bangs people around, you know he can help us."

As for Jere Macura, the good news for his legion of fans is he got off the bench for the first time since playing five minutes on Dec. 4 at Indiana.  The bad news was the output.  The Croat entered at 19-4 Notre Dame.  He departed four minutes later with two fouls, a turnover and a missed lay-up and the advantage trimmed to 25-15.   It wasn't all his fault, but he was on the floor when the momentum turned.  It's difficult to earn playing time against Georgetown when your team is minus-five when you're on the floor versus Colgate.

Macura did play another eight minutes in the second-half, and scored on a back-door stuff off a nice feed from Graves.   Fellow pine brother Torrian Jones had two three-pointers an Top Stories