IRISH REWIND: Winning contagious as Notre Dame beats Syracuse

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Tom Timmermans was so excited that he raced off the Carrier Dome floor, barreled down a runway and bounced off a door to the media room while classmate Torrian Jones scribbled autographs back in the arena.

Despite everything that the Notre Dame senior class has accomplished in their careers, be it a Big East division championship or NCAA Tournament wins, Jones and Timmermans had never experienced victory in Syracuse.

Until Monday.

Sparked by the sizzling shooting of sophomore guard Chris Quinn and unconscious work late from the free-throw line, Notre Dame ignored an early Syracuse run in the second half before an 84-72 victory in front of 26,913.

Consecutive victories over Connecticut, Seton Hall and Syracuse give Notre Dame its longest league win streak of the season, and at just the right time. Continuing to build their NCAA Tournament resume with a third-straight win over a team with a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of 25 or better, the Irish improve to 13-9 overall, and 7-5 in the Big East, good for fourth place.

"We want to be part of that (NCAA) Tournament bracket again," said head coach Mike Brey.

Especially Jones, who has been in it each of his first three years. All he did Monday was tally 12 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth career double-double, all this season in conference play.

"This is one team I'd rather beat than any team in the nation," Jones said. "This is one game that's really important to me and I'm glad I could get it."

It was Notre Dame's first victory in central New York since Jan. 18, 1997, a streak of five straight. The Irish had dropped five straight overall and 10 of 11 to the defending national champions, who slip to 16-6; 6-5.

After shooting a season-high 64.4 percent from the floor two days earlier in a win over Miami, Syracuse connected on 38 percent against Notre Dame.

"We got a lot of good shots," said head coach Jim Boeheim. "We just didn't convert them."

A Big East player of the week honor, his first of the season, did little to distract Irish guard Chris Thomas. After having averaged 26.6 points his previous three games, Thomas tallied a team-high 25 with five assists and two rebounds in another full 40 minutes.

"This is the best feeling that I've felt in a long time," Thomas said.

Thomas shot 6-for-16 from the floor, 5-of-10 from 3-point range, but most importantly, got to the free-throw line nine times, where he sank eight.

"Nobody's playing better in the league right now," Brey said. "He's a winner and that's been a little contagious."

Notre Dame played its second consecutive game without sophomore power forward Torin Francis. He was back in the Joyce Center watching on television and resting a herniated disc in his back. Without Francis, Timmermans took command in the low post with 12 points and eight rebounds in a career-high 36 minutes. He also checked Syracuse forward Hakim Warrick, who had to labor for a game-high 28 points.

"We're a very confident team," Timmermans said. "It's great going out and winning in the dome."

Trailing by one with just over 11 minutes remaining, Notre Dame ran off eight straight points. A Thomas 3-pointer put the Irish up four, but the visitors weren't done. They returned from a timeout with a 3-pointer from Timmermans, his first of the season and second of his career, to make it 60-53.

"I've taken a couple this year when they're open," Timmermans said. "I stepped into it and just shot it and it went in."

Meanwhile, Quinn was just getting warmed up. With so much attention paid to his backcourt buddy, Quinn knew he could get shots in key situations.

"Coach was calling some plays for me there at the end," he said. "I had to get in the lane and just make a play."

The Irish led by six with just under six minutes remaining when Quinn got going and never stopped. He scored 10 consecutive points in 2:07, including a pair of huge 3-pointers, to push the advantage to 12, 71-59, with 3:12 to play.

Quinn finished with 22 points, 15 in the second half.

"Once they got the lead, Quinn made some very difficult shots," Boeheim said. "And that was the ball game."

The Irish put it away by hitting free throw after free throw after free throw.

"It's a big weapon down the stretch when they're trying to foul," said Timmermans. "We just knock them down."

Syracuse tried to climb back into it by first fouling with 2:35 remaining. But the Irish simply stepped up and connected on 13 consecutive free throws to move ahead by 12. Jones started the parade and the Irish didn't miss until Timmermans rattled the second of two tosses out with 4.5 seconds remaining.

Staff writer Tom Noie:

tnoie@sbtinfo.com

(574) 235-6153

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NOTRE DAME 84, SYRACUSE 72

NOTRE DAME (84)

min fg ft rb pf tp

30 Jordan Cornette 0-4 0-0 3 2 0

36 Torrian Jones 3-10 6-8 12 1 12

36 Tom Timmermans 4-9 3-4 8 4 12

40 Chris Thomas 6-16 8-9 2 2 25

34 Chris Quinn 7-10 4-6 4 2 22

14 Rick Cornett 4-5 0-1 1 3 8

10 Colin Falls 1-1 2-3 1 0 5

TEAM 4

200 TOTALS 25-55 23-31 35 14 84

3-point fg-fga included in totals above: Thomas 5-10, Quinn 4-7, Falls 1-1, Timmermans 1-1, Cornette 0-4. TOTALS: 11-23 (47.8 percent).

SYRACUSE (72)

min fg ft rb pf tp

40 Hakim Warrick 9-20 10-12 16 4 28

20 Demetris Nichols 2-7 0-0 3 3 5

21 Craig Forth 0-1 0-0 3 2 0

40 Gerry McNamara 7-23 3-4 2 4 20

35 Josh Pace 2-7 0-0 7 1 4

4 Terrence Roberts 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

15 Jeremy McNeil 3-4 0-0 6 3 6

25 Louie McCroskey 4-9 0-0 5 5 9

TEAM 2

200 TOTALS 27-71 13-16 44 22 72

3-point fg-fga included in totals above: McNamara 3-15, Nichols 1-5, McCroskey 1-2. TOTALS: 5-22 (22.7 percent)

Halftime score: Notre Dame 38, Syracuse 29.

Shooting: Notre Dame 25-55 (45.5 percent) Syracuse 27-71 (38.0 percent).

Assists: Notre Dame 13 (Thomas 5, Quinn 4), Syracuse 10 (McNamara 6).

Turnovers: Notre Dame 9 (Quinn 4, Thomas 3), Syracuse 11 (Warrick 4, McNamara 4).

Officials: Jim Burr, Bob Donato, Doug Shows.

Attendance: 26,913.

Notre Dame forwards Rick Cornett and Tom Timmermans defend Syracuse's Hakim Warrick during an Irish win in the Carrier Dome on Feb. 16, 2004.AP File Photo

Each week during the regular season, NDI takes a look back at a memorable Irish game with a reprint of the game story that appeared in the South Bend Tribune. This week's Irish Rewind appeared in the Feb. 17, 2004 edition following Notre Dame's 84-72 victory in the Carrier Dome over Syracuse.

If you have a suggestion for Irish Rewind, send it to tnoie@ndinsider.com.