Luckily for Notre Dame, Quinn was healthy enough to take control in the second half. A 17-4 run, in which Quinn scored nine points, saw the Irish erase a one-point deficit and turn it into a 12-point lead to help Notre Dame beat the Lions 75-68. In front of 9,290 at the Joyce ACC, the fans saw Quinn finish with 18 points and freshman Kyle McAlarney coming off the bench to add 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting to help the Irish win their fifth straight game. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said after the game Quinn, despite leading the team in points, was far from over the injury setback.
"He's not there yet," Brey said. "He's not 100 percent. It was a pretty good turn of the ankle. I'm hoping we'll have him close for Monday night. This will be a good break for him. Kyle continues to be a key guy for us. He's really established himself as that. I was hoping he would do this. I've seen this at practice. Now he goes into Christmas pretty confident."
Columbia (6-3) held a 47-46 lead with 12 minutes remaining before Quinn took the game over. Two free throws from the senior moved Notre Dame (7-2) back ahead 48-47 and a McAlarney three-pointer increased the margin to 51-47. The two hooked up shortly thereafter when Quinn found a streaking McAlarney on a fast break for a basket and a foul. Quinn then scored the next seven points for the Irish, capped off by a three-pointer to give the Irish a comfortable 63-51 lead. Columbia never got closer than six points for the rest of the contest.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game for us," Columbia head coach Joseph Jones said. "They have outstanding players and a good inside-out game with Torin (Francis) and Chris Quinn. We were hoping that Chris was still a little bogged down from his injury but he showed no effects of that in the second. He kind of took control there in the second half."
The only stat that matters is wins and losses and that's a good thing for the Irish. For the game, Notre Dame shot only 38 percent and committed 15 turnovers. Columbia outscored the Irish 44-16 in the paint with help from Lion big man Ben Nwachukwu's 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Justin Armstrong was Columbia's leading point scorer with 17 while John Baumann added 11 points. For Notre Dame, Colin Falls had 10 points on just 2-of-12 shooting while the Irish's leading scorer, Torin Francis, was held to eight points but hauled down 10 rebounds. Forty-five trips to the free throw line by Notre Dame more than made up for an off night shooting the ball. The Irish hit 28-of-45 from the charity stripe while Columbia connected on only 6-of-10. Brey was complimentative of the Lions' performance.
"They're good," Brey said. "I'm impressed by them. I was impressed that they were 3-1 on the road and played hard. I thought their two big guys beat up all four of our big guys. That was an area we didn't do a very good job. It's a physical game and they were playing very physical defense, which is the book on us. We were rewarded by going to the line but we didn't shoot free throws like we normally shoot free throws. So you make the game interesting."
Aggressive play and three-point shooting allowed the Irish to hold a 34-33 halftime advantage. Notre Dame connected on six three-pointers in the first half, including two each from Falls and McAlarney. The Irish also took the ball strong to the hole, forcing the Lions to commit 12 team fouls. Notre Dame was 10-of-17 from the free throw line in the first half, including two from Falls right before the end of the half to give Notre Dame the one-point advantage heading into the locker room. In the back-and-forth first half, no team held a lead bigger than four points.