D.C. has been home away from home for Notre Dame hoops

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

WASHINGTON – Moving the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament some 250 air miles from its Tobacco Road roots in Greensboro, N.C. to the nation’s capital provides the Notre Dame men’s basketball program a homecoming of sorts.

In their previous conference life in the Big East, the Irish enjoyed a history of sustained success at the massive professional arena formerly known as MCI Center in the Chinatown section of this city. Notre Dame once won six-straight in Verizon Center, including what at the time was the longest regular-season game in Big East history.

Fourth-seeded Notre Dame (20-10) opens tournament play Thursday at approximately 2:30 p.m. against an opponent to be determined. It’s a chance for the Irish to make more memories in a place that already holds plenty.

Following is a look at the top six moments for Notre Dame at Verizon Center since coach Mike Brey took over as head coach in 2000.

6. Notre Dame 86, Georgetown 80 (March 8, 2003)

Coming off a loss earlier in the week to Syracuse that Brey said “devastated” his team, 16th-ranked Notre Dame used a 21-12 run late in the second half to grab the lead and get away with its sixth-straight win in Verizon Center. Thundering cheers of “Let’s Go Irish!” dominated during the decisive run.

It was the third time in a magical NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 season that the Irish won in Verizon Center. Sophomore guard Chris Thomas scored 29 points with seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in all 40 minutes. He also made four free throws the final 19 seconds to seal it.

The game served as a coming-out party for freshman guard Chris Quinn. He played a career-high 29 minutes with eight points, five rebounds, three steaks and a career-high six assists.

5. Notre Dame 78, Georgetown 64 (Feb. 27, 2010)

Playing without All-American power forward Luke Harangody, who missed his fourth-straight game with a bone bruise to his right knee, Notre Dame got 21 points from Ben Hansbrough and 19 from Tim Abromaitis to beat the No. 11 Hoyas.

Hansbrough scored 10-straight points to open the second half and give the Irish an 11-point lead. Junior forward Carleton Scott added 17 points and nine rebounds as the Irish won in D.C. for the first time since 2003.

Brey’s 100th career Big East win was Notre Dame’s first road victory over a ranked team in two years, and the second of four-straight wins to close the regular season and lock down an NCAA tournament bid.

4. Notre Dame 78, Georgetown 71 (Jan. 27, 2001)

Playing without All-American power forward Troy Murphy, who fouled out with 4:28 remaining, Notre Dame snapped a three-game road losing streak in the Big East and grabbed sole possession of first place in the Big East West Division, which it would eventually win during Brey’s first season.

It was a school-record fourth-straight Big East win for the Irish, who went 17-of-21 from the free throw line after Murphy fouled out. Ryan Humphrey scored 17 points with 10 rebounds and David Graves added 15 points and five rebounds as Notre Dame erased an eight-point deficit with 12 minutes to play against the 10th-ranked Hoyas.

3. Notre Dame 79, No. 9 Maryland 67 (Dec. 7, 2002)

Booed every time he touched the ball, Maryland transfer Dan Miller scored 17 points with seven rebounds as Notre Dame beat the defending national champions in their own backyard.

It was Brey’s first win over an ACC school and Notre Dame’s first win over an ACC school since 1992.

Freshman power forward Torin Francis scored a then-career-high 20 points with eight rebounds and three blocks in 29 minutes. Guard Matt Carroll added 19 points as the Irish led by double-digits, and by as many as 18, over the final 8:23.

2. Notre Dame 98, No. 2 Texas 92 (Dec. 8, 2002)

A magical run of three wins over three Top 13 teams in seven days was capped with a BB&T Classic championship as Francis went for 21 points, 10 rebounds and a tournament-record eight blocks. Three Irish scored at least 20 points, including Miller who had 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Notre Dame trailed by five with 2:57 remaining.

Swingman Torrian Jones held Texas guard T.J. Ford, an eventual All-American and NBA lottery pick, scoreless the final 9:32.

The next day in the Associated Press poll, Notre Dame rocketed from unranked to No. 10.

• 1. Notre Dame 116, Georgetown 111 (Feb. 9, 2002)

Then the longest and highest-scoring game in Big East history ran so late after a noon start that it caused Notre Dame to almost miss its commercial flight out of Reagan National Airport and connection later that night in Cincinnati.

Thomas played all 60 minutes, a school record, and scored 22 points with 12 assists, eight rebounds and three steals. He also committed one turnover the final 40 minutes.

Carroll added a career-high 30 points with 10 rebounds. Notre Dame tied the league record with 64 rebounds. Georgetown had a chance to win it with the final possession at the end of regulation and each of the first three overtimes.

Four Irish played at least 49 minutes, include 49 off the bench from Graves.

Brey said afterward that the game was better than the 1992 NCAA Elite Eight epic between Kentucky and Duke, which he coached in as a Blue Devil assistant.

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Notre Dame's Chris Thomas, Matt Carroll and Dan Miller celebrate their 98-92 victory over Texas at the 2002 BB&T Classic at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.AP File Photo