Irish Down St. Joseph's, 80-67

The University of Notre Dame's men's basketball team opened the preseason schedule with an 80-67 victory over St. Joseph's at the Joyce Center in front of 10,748 fans. It was the first of two exhibition games the Irish will play this early this season.

Notre Dame jumped out to an early 9-4 lead on Thursday, but the Pumas battled back and led 25-21 at the 8:45 mark. In the last seven minutes of the half the Irish outscored their opponent 18-8, giving them a 48-36 lead at the break. Chris Quinn led Notre Dame with 13 points and three assists. Chris Thomas chipped in with 10 points to go along with five assists.

Notre Dame continued to add to its lead in the second half. The Irish pushed the spread to 18 points and were ahead 70-52 with just over nine minutes remaining in the game. However, the quick and scrappy St. Joseph team was determined to battle to the wire and cut the Irish lead to 10 with four minutes to go. But that was as close as they would get, and Notre Dame came away with a 13-point win.

Irish head coach Mike Brey seemed impressed with the St. Joseph team after Thursday's contest.

"We had to prepare for a difficult system," Brey said. "They played hard, and I don't know if we will play against a team that changes ends as hard as they do.

"Then it's a tough match-up playing as big as we are, it was tough for us to chase them. I fully expected we would have to play hard and even have some game pressure on us in the second half and this is good. Guys were held accountable right up to the last four minutes in the game. I really wasn't surprised that they kept coming at us."

Thomas was the high scorer with 22 points to lead three Irish in double figures. Quinn had 16 points and Torin Francis contributed 12.

The Irish shot 43.5 percent from the field while limiting the visitors to just 34.3 percent.

Brey also had some praise for his own team.

"At times I thought we did a pretty good job of playing some zone," he said. "I thought we were very unselfish. With our bigs handling the ball a little more, we are prone to turn it over a little bit, and we have to clean that up some.

'We are looking for each other, maybe to a fault sometimes. We maybe over-pass a little. It's certainly something to evaluate as we had a bunch of guys out there with the jersey on for the first time, and I like what they did overall.

"Certainly Russell Carter gave us a lift; and Omari Isreal, the second time he got in, was pretty good. Rob Kurz was excellent with some key minutes in the second half. Kurz is fearless. He plays older than a freshman and our guys respected him all summer. Kurz doesn't try to do anything he can't do. He just fits in and makes hustle plays. Obviously I'm very impressed as he defends and knows what we need, so he has really been impressive. Dennis Latimore is still trying to find his way but again, that is his first start in two years."

Senior All-American candidate Chris Thomas also had high praise for the Pumas.

"That was a good team," Thomas said. "They are good players and it seemed like they had five, seven, ten shooters out there. They are real confident players, but we have some things to work on like defensive balance. It's hard. We won't see anybody pressing like that on offense the rest of the year. It was incredible to see how fast they were getting down court.

"To get defensive balance, we have to stop the ball and maybe the guards will have to take the big men until they get back down the court. With four or five little guys out there, the guards aren't used to coming back to the lane and then coming out on the little guy ready to shoot a three.

"So defensive balance starts with me and Chris [Quinn], and I had trouble stopping their point guard. He is super fast and especially when I was in foul trouble and they were getting on a run, and it was tough for all of us to get back on (defense)."

Veteran guard Chris Quinn wasn't thrilled with the results on Thursday.

"We played just all right," said Quinn. "It was our first exhibition and we have a lot of the things to work with. Obviously, a lot of guys came in and gave some good minutes for us. We just have to get back in here tomorrow, and we have to get better. It's great to be back on the court. We have been playing against one another so long that it's good to play against somebody else."

The speed of St. Joseph's seemed to keep the Irish players off balance, but Quinn said, "We knew they were a small lineup with mostly all guards and we talked about that a lot. We just wanted to get on their shooters, and it is a different position for our big men to be in when the other team has five guards out on the court. They have to get out and extend on the shooters and they're used to being in the post, so it was a different look for us and I think it will help us a lot."

The Irish return to action when they take on Quincy in their second exhibition game on Wednesday, November 10th, at 7:30 at the Joyce Center. Top Stories