The blueprint for the game looked similar to the one Saturday afternoon when the Horns fell behind early but wore down George Washington and pulled away over the game's final minutes.
Sunday, after trailing starting late in the first half, including by 13 after an early second period Irish burst, UT stormed back to tie the game at 65 with 11:23 to play and then take the lead a minute later at 71-68 on a T.J. Ford three-point play. The Horns extended their lead to six at 76-70 on a Ford trey and a Brian Boddicker bucket and four minutes later, after a Deginald Erskin drive, held a five-point cushion at 83-78 with just over four minutes left on the MCI Center clock. Notre Dame, though, went on a 12-zip run to open up a seven-point lead at 90-83, which Texas could not overcome.
The pivotal play came after James Thomas fouled Torrian Jones on a made bucket that pulled the Irish within one, 83-82, at the 2:11 mark. Jones missed the free throw, but Danny Miller grabbed the long rebound and flipped the ball to Chris Thomas who canned a top-of-the-key three to give Notre Dame its first lead since just over 11 minutes to play. Two free throws and a three-pointer later and the Golden Domers had opened up their seven-point lead.
Texas worked back to within two at 94-92 after hitting three-pointers on three of four possessions (two from Boddicker and one from the up-to-that-point ice-cold Brandon Mouton), but Notre Dame took care of business from the free throw line and the Horns couldn't find the bottom of the net on their last two long range attempts.
UT lost despite an amazing second-half three-point display. The Horns nailed nine of 13 threes after intermission (and 14 of 25 for the game), including four from Boddicker, two from Sydmill Harris and one each from Ford, Mouton and Royal Ivey. Harris finished the game six of six from beyond the arc on his way to a game-high 25 points.
Outside shooting obviously wasn't the problem Sunday in D.C. The Horns' inside play, both offensively and defensively, was.
Notre Dame true freshman big man Torin Francis consistently schooled UT's more experienced bangers Erskin and Thomas, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks. The Horns only managed to outrebound the Irish by one, 40-39, far too often allowing Notre Dame second- and third-chance baskets. On the Longhorn offensive end, almost everyone in the Orange and White missed (and missed often) within five feet. Thomas finished one of six from the floor and managed a measly six points. Although strong on the glass with a team-high nine boards, Texas true freshman Brad Buckman turned in a miserable offensive performance, missing (or having blocked) five close-in attempts and finishing with just two points. Erskin had the most success of any Longhorn post player, knocking down four of his eight field goal attempts for eight points.
Texas actually made one more field goal than Notre Dame (34-33) and outshot the Irish from the arc (56 percent to 48.1 percent), but, in another indictment of the team's inside play, the Horns went to the line only 13 times (making 10) while their opponents stepped to the stripe 23 times (making 19).
Ford finished with 21 points and 12 assists and Boddicker, on four-of-five shooting from downtown, totaled 14. Mouton made just three of 11 field goals (one of six from the arc, including an airball) and finished with seven points. Ivey also had a subpar shooting day, managing two buckets in seven attempts.
Four players provided the Irish their scoring punch. Aside from Francis' 21, Miller and Matt Carroll added 20 and Chris Thomas tossed in 19.