When the final horn sounded, the Irish win-streak was intact as they downed Villanova 78-72. This win moved the Irish to 10-2 and 2-0 in conference play while Villanova goes to 8-2 and 1-1.
This was a hotly contested game and emotions were high on both sides. Neither team could get a commanding lead until the Irish jumped ahead by seven, 32-25, with a little over five minutes to go in the half and went into the locker room ahead 41-34.
The Irish shot the ball well in the opening period hitting on 14-of-32 for 43.8 percent and were on target from beyond the 3-point arc hitting 7-of-13 for 53 percent.
In the first half, the Irish were perfect from the free-throw line hitting 6-of-6.
In the second half, the Irish continued to keep a 5-7 point lead, and with just over 10 minutes, bumped the spread to 61-52, but the Wildcats were not ready to give up and clawed their way into the lead, 67-66, with four minutes remaining.
At this point Thomas took over and scored 8 points in the last 3:35, including 6-of-6 from the foul line. He hit a highlight 17-foot jumper from the baseline that went over the corner of the backboard with just 57 seconds to go that gave the Irish a 74-70 lead. Latimore and Falls both went 2-2 from the foul line in the last 1:45 to keep the Irish on top for a 78-72 win.
The Irish finished the game shooting 41.4 percent from the field on 24-of-58, and hit 55.0 percent from 3-point range on 11-20.
Thomas was the leading scorer for Notre Dame with 25 points, which included being 8-of-8 from the foul line. Falls and Quinn each registered 16 and Latimore contributed 12.
The margin of victory in this game came from the charity line as the Irish were a perfect 19-of-19.
Coach Mike Brey was smiling after the game. "It was a great college basketball game and our crowd really helps us," Brey stated. "I'm proud of our group, and I thought we were really fearless. It comes down to game situations again and our basketball IQ was pretty good, and we were fabulous from the foul line. I didn't know we made them all. I knew we were pretty good.
"You've played two BIG EAST games, but you feel like you have played ten, so we have to get some rest and be ready to go Monday against a great team."
Brey commented on the tough shot Thomas made in the closing minutes.
"He is the only guy who could have made that shot," Brey said of Thomas. "He did a lot of other things than make that shot. You know what; he is the only guy in this league who would have taken that shot, too.
"He is the most fearless guy in college basketball, and he has made me more fearless in coaching his butt. I'm very proud of him. He controlled the game. He made big plays. He is such a quarterback, senior captain, leader, to the point where I was afraid to rest him today. He had to go forty."
Colin Falls is pleased with the way his team has played in the two BIG EAST victories .
"The first two games have been down to the wire," he said. "I expect almost every game to be like that, as that is how the BIG EAST is. Every single game in the BIG EAST is important as you are playing yourself into the tournament. Every game is physical and a dogfight that comes down to the end."
Guard Chris Quinn also expects the BIG EAST to be tough again this season.
"We expect almost everyone in the BIG EAST to be like this," Quinn said. "It's going to be a physical battle, and you look at our league there are a lot of good teams, and if you're not ready to play every night you are going to be in trouble.
"As exciting as this win may be, we have to get back in here tomorrow and get ready for Syracuse. As exciting as it may be to be 2-0 in the league, we have to be hungry to go 3-0. Syracuse on Big Monday--it doesn't get much better than that."
The Irish will be looking to extend their winning streak to seven Monday when they host sixth-ranked Syracuse.