This was not the case. A perfect 10-for-10 free-throw shooting night by Chris Quinn and 16 points and seven rebounds from Torin Francis lifted Notre Dame to an easy 81-47 victory over Florida International at the Joyce Center. The Irish (4-2) jumped out to a 38-20 halftime lead and never looked back. The second half margin was so comfortable that Quinn and Francis sat the last seven minutes of the ballgame while the four freshmen and sophomore Rob Kurz closed things out.
"We did a good job of not having a letdown," Quinn said. "Coming off a big win at Alabama, it would have been easy for us to have a letdown. We came out tonight and we were able to establish a lead. It was good to get some rest there at the end."
"It was kind of nice to play a lot of guys," head coach Mike Brey said. "It was an unusual first half in so that we built a lead at the foul line. But we got to see a lot of guys hit free throws to get us that lead. The second half, a couple different combinations put us in a nice little flow offensively. I was really pleased that I could play four freshmen and one sophomore the last seven minutes of the ballgame and see what we got."
The drama was over by the time the halftime horn sounded. The Irish held FIU to 29 percent shooting from the field in the first half and benefited from two technical fouls called on the Golden Panthers. With Notre Dame ahead 13-8, the Irish went on a 10-0 to increase the lead to 15 points. FIU (3-4) never cut the lead to single digits again. The Irish benefited from 12 FIU turnovers in the first half which they turned into 17 points. The Golden Panthers had only one point off a turnover in the first 20 minutes of action. Francis, who stands at 6-11, led the charge inside as the Golden Panthers, who does not have a single player taller than 6-9, could not match-up with the senior. In the game, Francis became the 45th player in Notre Dame history to score over 1,000 points for a career.
"We have to take advantage of their size difference by pounding it down low," Francis said. "It opened up the perimeter and some of the other big guys were able to get some shots outside. That's one of the things we've been consistent and effective with."
"I'm really proud of him," Brey said of Francis. "I can't ask anymore out of him. He's had a great frame and mind and focus. His habits are so good. He's doesn't ever have a bad practice. Ever. He'll make a bad decision every now and then but he's such a hard worker and it's paid off. His demeanor and tempo are so good and that's why we're throwing down there into him."
Notre Dame's defense once again showed up in forceful manner. The Irish had been holding the opposition to 40 percent from the field but improved this mark tonight. For the game, FIU only hit 18 field goals and shot 32 percent for the game.
"That's something we've talked about since the beginning," Quinn said. "We looked up at halftime and they had 20 points. Anytime you are holding a team to 20 points in a half, you're doing something right. We were able to switch defenses but mostly we were in man-to-man and make some plays."
Colin Falls chipped in 13 points, all in the second half, and hit his first two shots of the season inside the arc. Russell Carter continued his all-around hustle play, netting 11 points. Ivan Almonte led the Golden Panther with 18 points and 13 rebounds and Ismael N'Diaye added 10 points. But it was the play of Quinn, who finished the game with 16 points, that had FIU head coach Sergio Rouco talking after the game.
"They are just so big inside and we guarded their wings pretty well and didn't let them get off the three-point shots," Rouco said. "We were there on Quinn's shots but he's so damn good now. He's taller than you think he is and took our little guys and shot over them. They were contested, tough shots but they went it. When you have that with the big guys inside…we didn't do a good job of defending the post today.
"Quinn is the key to this team. Everyone thinks it's the kid who hits three's (Falls). But if Quinn doesn't penetrate and make shots, he doesn't get his shots."