Hot shooting Irish down Vandy, 79-69

The Irish wore their road black uniforms Wednesday night at the Joyce Center against Vanderbilt. The seniors pick the jerseys before the game and for Torin Francis, Chris Quinn and Rick Cornett, it could have been their last game in any type of Irish gear.

Francis, in particular, made sure this would not be the case. The senior big man scored a game-high 23 points and controlled the paint area to lead Notre Dame to a 79-69 victory over the Commodores in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament. The Irish (16-13) next play the winner of the Michigan-UTEP contest on March 20th. Head coach Mike Brey was more than satisfied with the effort from Francis and said the forecast dictated him getting a lot of touches.

"The one thing about us has been that we always throw it in there and see what the weather is like," Brey said. "Is it a night where he can get going? Is it a night where's he in a groove? Tonight, he got in deep. He got into a rhythm. People tend to forget that he's one of the leading career double-double guys in the Big East. That's pretty good. I hope he's got a couple of more in him."

Francis was dominant down low. The 23 points was his second best offensive output of the season and the 11 rebounds he grabbed was good for his third double-double in five games. He was also efficient, hitting on 10-of-14 shots. After Vanderbilt had cut the lead to 62-57, Francis threw down a thunderous dunk and on the next possession, rebounded his own miss and scored a basket to quickly put the Notre Dame advantage at 66-57. Despite not making it to the NCAA Tournament as a senior, Francis still wants to compete as much as possible.

"We know we're not in the NCAA but we're still playing basketball," Francis said. "The NIT is still a good tournament. There are a lot of good teams in it that didn't make it to the tournament. I want to play as long as I can in my last few games."

Francis wasn't alone on the offensive end. The second highest scoring team in the Big East did not disappoint on Wednesday. Notre Dame burned the nets by hitting 55 percent of their shots from the field. The Irish also connected on 9-of-19 (47 percent) from three-point distance and hit 16-of-22 free throws. The Commodores only attempted ten shots from the charity stripe.

Quinn added another solid outing. The senior guard scored 15 points but also dished out nine assists. He's averaging nine a contest the past three games. In the win, Colin Falls became the all-time leader in made three-pointers in one season. The junior connected on 4-of-8 shots from three-point range and ended the night with 15 points. Falls has now hit 100 long distance bombs this year. Sophomore forward Rob Kurz fell just short of his third double-double of the season, contributing nine points and nine rebounds.

Vanderbilt, which finished its season 17-13, took an early first half lead on the hot shooting of Derrick Byars. The junior forward scored nine of the Commodores first 12 points to give his team a one-point lead at 12-11. Byars ended the night with 18 points. Vandy took its largest lead of the first half, 20-15, on a made shot by DeMarre Carroll. The Commodores shot 45 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes of action.

That's when Falls got hot from three-point land. The junior sharpshooter connected on three long range bombs and Francis's inside game gave Notre Dame a 38-35 halftime lead. For the half, the Irish shot a blazing 56 percent from the field, including 6-of-11 from behind the arc. Francis led the Irish with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting before intermission while Falls's hot hand contributed nine points.


Vanderbilt Comments

Kevin Stallings: "I thought the game really came down to the fact Notre Dame shot the ball better than we did. I'm not sure from my perspective that it had anything to do with any defense. We got some open looks that we normally make but I thought they did a better job of making plays when they needed to."

Julian Terrell: "They do a lot of screen-ins, and they have three really good shooters, so you just pretty much have to stay toe-to-toe on defense. We got lost inside, and they just did a good job."

"We had a pretty good non-conference schedule. Once the season started, we started off really well. It pretty much went up and down for us. We had a slump of seven games or so. Towards the end we kind of picked it up a little bit, but once we were in the [SEC] tournament, we had one good game and one bad game, and we ended up here and obviously we lost."

Derrick Byars: "There were a number of things that plagued us. The inability to stop their three point shooting, we fouled, they got to the line and made free throws, and we had turnovers on our own. We caused all of that."

Vanderbilt forward DeMarre Carroll (22) puts up a shot as Notre Dame guard Russell Carter, left, defends during the first half of a first-round NIT tournament basketball game, Wednesday, March 15, 2006, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond) Top Stories