It's Raining Threes

The Irish took on a determined and athletic UCLA team, but Notre Dame couldn't find their stroke and suffered 75-65 loss at the hands of the Bruins on Sunday. The Bruins came into the game averaging about six 3-pointers a game, but today they made fourteen 3-pointers which was the key factor in their win.

The (16-9) Fighting Irish never led in the game as the Bruins jumped out to a quick lead and continued to build on the margin, but the Irish were still in the game at the 4:58 mark in the first half as they were only down by four. However, the Bruins went on 16-5 run and went into the locker room leading 41-16.

The Irish offense was abysmal in the opening half, hitting on just 9-of-28 for 32.1 percent from the field, including 2-of-11 from 3-point range. Not only were the Irish shooters cold, but the UCLA defense kept them off-balance most of the time.

Senior Chris Thomas led the Irish in scoring with seven points followed by Chris Quinn with six points.

The second half saw the visitors maintain a double digit lead for the first 17 minutes, and had their biggest spread, 59-39, with just about 10:00 minutes remaining.

Notre Dame did make a run in the last minutes, but the closest they could come was 63-71 with just three minutes to go.

The Irish offense improved slightly in the second half and ended up 25-of-63 for 39.7 percent, and 7-of-22 from beyond the arc for 31.8 percent, but it clearly wasn't enough to stop the hot shooting by the Bruins.

The Irish ended with three players in double figures. Chris Quinn led the team with 17, followed by Chris Thomas and Torin Francis each with 10.

Chris Thomas recorded his 800th career assist which makes him just the third player in NCAA history to have 800 assists and score 2000 points.

Irish head coach Mike Brey was disappointed with the loss.

"(UCLA) played great and they shot it great. Fourteen 3-pointers kind of staggers you; that's not something they have been doing, but I give them credit," said Brey. "I thought in the first half we didn't do a great job of getting off stagger screens to get to shooters or ball screens, and then you are in a hole trying to dig out of it. We made a little run at it but it was too deep a hole."

The Irish defense did not play well on Sunday and Brey said, "I am disappointed that we weren't better guarding the ball screens and guarding the shooters off of stagger screens. We got there a little late and they hit some pretty clean looks.

"We obviously have to get better before we play Rutgers. We have talked about being better defensively and overall we have been pretty good defensively."

When asked about Chris Thomas and his points and assists record Brey stated, "I feel bad for him because lost in a tough afternoon is an amazing statistic. The two guys he joins (Sherman Douglas and Gary Payton) are unbelievable players and shows just how much we have relied on him and how he has impacted every play.

"I'm proud of Chris Thomas. I get numbed to his numbers sometimes. He is a warrior and is hurting more than anybody in our program right now because pushing this team into the NCAA tournament has been his tone ever since last spring when he took over as our guy."

Thomas said he was also disappointed in Sunday's loss.

"We didn't shoot the ball well and we didn't guard well," Thomas said. "They had a lot of wide-open looks and were able to execute well. They really played well. We've had trouble guarding people this whole week, and it starts with me. It starts with the point guard needing to get into people more like I was earlier in the season and establishing a defensive identity."

Junior Chris Quinn summed up the lack of defensive play by saying, "I know we have to get back in here and work on defense, defense, and defense. That's what we have to get better at if we want to go where we want to go."

The Irish return to action at home Wednesday, March 1, when they host Rutgers.


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