Baby-Faced Assassin Strikes

After a week of reflection, Chris Thomas was back in leadership mode for the Notre Dame basketball team Sunday afternoon. But it was a certain "12-year-old" that helped get the Irish started in a cathartic 10-point victory over Seton Hall. IrishEyes Managing Editor Alan Tieuli reports courtside from the Joyce Center.

Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

January 12, 2003

Two Good Looks
Shift Irish Fortunes

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service

NOTRE DAME, IN (IE) – Talk about a baby-faced assassin.

Seton Hall was feeling pretty good about itself, leading host Notre Dame by four points 10 minutes into the Irish's Big East Conference home opener Sunday afternoon.  The tempo was a bit helter-skelter, perfect for the New Jersey squad that prefers to play an athletic, blacktop type of game.

But then Notre Dame freshman Chris Quinn entered the game and, in two possessions within 45 seconds, eased the concerns of 10,891 Joyce Center fans.

"Bang, bang," said Irish head coach Mike Brey. "He got two wide open looks and made them both.  It's almost like ‘Who's got the 12-year-old.'  That's a great example of him sneaking up on you."

Quinn's successful three-pointers came on the only two shots he took in 19 total minutes of play.  But this was definitely a case of quality over quantity.  The baskets were the fulcrum to Notre Dame's 74-64 victory and provided the precise definition of why Brey recruited Quinn out of Dublin, Ohio.

"When you have four shooters on the court," Quinn said, "that confuses (the opposition).  They don't know who to extend on.  And that's what I'm trying do in my freshman year.  Just help the team, and help Chris (Thomas) any way I can."

Quinn turned 18 in September, but has no need to pack shaving cream and a razor among his toiletries when he goes on the road with the Irish.  His choice of close-cropped haircut indicates he has little use for a brush either.  But what a mature game he has.

With the 6-2, 178-pounder on the floor for 10 consecutive minutes in the first half, the Irish went from four down to 10 up.   And while Quinn did not contribute statistically beyond the pair of treys, Notre Dame's offensive and defensive rhythm was simply smoother.  And no-one benefited more than Thomas, who overcame a miserable effort at Pittsburgh with a more Thomasesque   22-point, four assist performance.

"You know, in practice it's hard to see what we can do as a team because Chris and I are never on the floor together," said Thomas, "We are the only two point guards.  When we do get on the same team it just opens up the floor for everyone.   I know that when I'm driving he's going to spot up somewhere and he knows I'm looking for him.  When he came in and two three's I knew it was going to be a good day for both of us and our team."

Notre Dame is now 1-1 in the Big East, 13-2 overall, and will provide retain ranking somewhere in the top six or seven.  Seton Hall dropped to 0-3 in conference, 5-7 overall.  The Pirates were pesky, and junior point guard Andre Barrett (22 points) brought his A game.  That made Quinn's effort even more important.

"I want (Quinn) to handle the ball more," said Brey. "Especially when you have a Barrett or a (Brandin) Knight hounding Chris Thomas, just bring it up the floor."

Quinn ended up playing 19 minutes and Notre Dame was plus-14 in that time.  Thomas had five minutes of rest, and looked once again like one of the top five players in the conference.

The Irish also received a workmanlike performance from senior Matt Carroll, who logged all 40 minutes while scoring 19 points and securing a team-high eight rebounds.   This was only the second time Carroll has gone wire-to-wire in his career (Xavier in the 2001 NCAA Tournament), underscoring how the 6-6 guard has developed his complete game.

"I was afraid to take him out of the game," Brey admitted. "I was afraid for the stability factor.  I just like to have him out there; to talk us through things and calm us down."

Carroll wasn't a dead-eye – five-for-15 – but he his three well-timed second-half shots to hold off minor Seton Hall rallies.  His glass work took the glare off Dan Miller, who had a pedestrian effort (seven points, six rebounds).  Freshman Torin Francis turned in a better effort, with 10 points and seven boards in 29 minutes.

Jordan Cornette started up front – in large part so ND could utilize his long arms with full-court double-teams after made baskets – and secured four rebounds and two steals.  Tom Timmermans adjusted well to a bench role with four points and three boards in nine minutes.

But Quinn lit the fuse and Thomas closed the deal, scoring 12 of his points in the second-half while turning the ball over just once in 35 minutes.

It was a critical contest for Thomas.   He took the 72-55 Pittsburgh loss personally and, without classes last week, had plenty of time for soul-searching.

"I think a big part of (the loss) was my lack of leadership and my lack of character," said Thomas.  "So I turned my phone off, I didn't want to talk to the media. I had to find myself and just look i Top Stories