Dec 8, 2002
By MATTHEW BARAKAT
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – Notre Dame won’t be sneaking up on any more opponents this season.
The unranked Fighting Irish won their third straight game over a ranked team, upsetting No. 2 Texas 98-92 on Sunday in the championship game of the BB&T Classic.
“We came into Washington off the radar screen,” Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. “We are going to be all over the radar screen now.”
In a matchup of two of the nation’s best point guards, Notre Dame’s Chris Thomas got the better of Texas’ T.J. Ford down the stretch.
Thomas finished with 19 points and eight assists and made two free throws with 25 seconds remaining to give Notre Dame (8-1) a 96-92 lead.
The Longhorns (5-1) erased a 13-point second-half deficit and led by five with three minutes remaining, but Thomas’ 3-pointer with 2:06 left gave the Irish an 85-83 lead they never relinquished.
“We came into Washington off the radar screen. We are going to be all over the radar screen now.”Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey
“I guess if you didn’t care who won, it was a great game,” Texas Coach Rick Barnes said. “It certainly was a game of runs.”
Ford, who led the nation in assists last season as a freshman, had 21 points and 11 assists and was named tournament MVP, but down the stretch he had a driving layup blocked, turned the ball over and missed a 3-pointer that could have brought the Longhorns within a point in the game’s final seconds.
“We just had to make shots and that’s what we didn’t do towards the end – especially me,” Ford said.
The Irish were 13-of-27 from 3-point range, and the Longhorns fared even better, going 14-of-25. Sydmill Harris, who scored a career-high 25 points for Texas, and Brian Boddicker shot a combined 10-of-11 from 3-point range.
“I didn’t think they could shoot at that level,” Brey said of the Longhorns, who had shot 30 percent from 3-point range this season. “When one guy gets going, it gets contagious.”
Despite the hot outside shooting from both teams, Barnes said freshman forward Torin Francis made the difference for the Irish, scoring 21 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking eight shots. He credited Francis with shutting down Texas’ big men, particularly center James Thomas, who was 1-of-6 from the field and scored six points.
“We had the game won, but we gave it away because of rebounding,” Barnes said.
“Torin has taken a huge step forward,” Brey said.
Texas trailed 57-44 with 18:54 remaining, then went on a 30-11 run that gave it a 76-70 lead with 8:45 remaining.
But the Irish, trailing 83-78 with three minutes left, responded with a 12-0 run, capped by Dan Miller’s 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining to make it 90-83.
Torin Francis slams home two of his 21 points.
Miller, heckled throughout the tournament by Maryland fans upset that he transferred from the Terrapins to the Irish, scored 20 points.
“I heard the boos, but it wasn’t a problem,” Miller said.
Notre Dame’s victory follows wins over No. 13 Marquette and No. 9 Maryland, the latter on Saturday in the first round of the tournament.
“I can’t quite digest this week yet,” Brey said. “It’s been a fabulous stretch. In the three games this week we did a lot of growing up.”
The last time an unranked team beat ranked teams in three consecutive games was last year when Arizona opened the season with victories over No. 2 Maryland, No. 6 Florida and No. 23 Texas.
The loss will probably drop the Longhorns in the Top 25 and ruin the chance of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup as Texas visits top-ranked Arizona next Sunday.
The teams played a tight, up-tempo game in the first half, with five lead changes in the first 14 minutes, but the Irish were able to open a 51-44 halftime lead. Notre Dame then opened the second half with long 3-pointers by Thomas and Carroll to take a 57-44 lead.
In the tournament’s third-place game, Maryland beat George Washington 93-82.