Jan 29, 2003
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey took a look at the stat sheet and smiled.
“I may frame this,” Brey said, pointing to Notre Dame’s 51-27 rebounding advantage over West Virginia. “The big, tough Irish.”
Brey might not want to get too carried away, though, after the 11th-ranked Irish beat the Mountaineers 88-69 Wednesday night. The Irish (17-3, 5-1 Big East) had a season-high 51 rebounds, but it came against the league’s worst rebounding team. It also was the first time the Irish have outrebounded an opponent since beating Marquette on Dec. 2, an 11-game span.
West Virginia coach John Beilein had no immediate explanation about why the Mountaineers (11-7, 2-4) had so much trouble rebounding.
“I’ll have to watch the tape tomorrow. They’re not particularly well known for their rebounding,” Beilein said. “We know we do not have to outrebound people to win, but we can’t be beat 51-27 off the boards.”
Notre Dame forward Torin Francis, who had seven rebounds, said the Irish were all more focused on rebounding.
“We’ve been outrebounded almost every game this season and they’ve all been close games,” he said. “We wanted to go out there and outrebound another team and get a big win at home. We’re putting more emphasis on team rebounding. We want all the guys going in for them, not just the front-row players.”
Notre Dame is 6-0 when outrebounding opponents, while the Mountaineers have been outrebounded in all but four games.
Six of the Irish players, led by Dan Miller with nine, had at least six rebounds. Kevin Pittsnogle was West Virginia’s leading rebounder with six.
“They outhustled us tonight,” West Virginia guard Nick Patella said.
The Irish improved to 11-0 at home, while the Mountaineers, who have lost seven straight to Notre Dame, fell to 0-6 on the road.
Matt Carroll and Chris Thomas led the Irish with 18 points each. Carroll had two points at halftime and Thomas had four.
I may frame this.Head coach Mike Brey
“When their shots started falling, they were tough to stop tonight,” said Drew Schifino, who led the Mountaineers with 20 points. “That made all the difference in the second half. They did a good job creating their own looks.”
Carroll added seven rebounds, while Thomas had seven assists and six rebounds. Thomas made all eight of his free throws, and Carroll made all four of his as the Irish were 24-of-27 from the free-throw line. Miller added 15 points.
Pittsnogle, who played just 22 minutes because of foul trouble, added 11 points. The Mountaineers were 11-of-19 from the free-throw line.
The Irish used an 11-2 run to take a 15-8 lead and never trailed again. They led by as many as 12, saw the Mountaineers cut it to two, but led 36-30 at halftime.
The Irish opened the second half with a 12-5 run to take a 48-35 lead and were never seriously challenged.
Beilein said the Mountaineers simply didn’t have an answer for the Irish.
“To me they’re like a perfect basketball team,” he said. “They’re unselfish, they shoot … they’re good.”
Brey warned afterward, though, he doesn’t think the Irish have fixed their rebounding problems, especially with Georgetown coming to town Saturday.
“Don’t get too spoiled in that department,” he said. “I thought we could get to the offensive board – we’re a little more physical and bigger than them. On Saturday it’s a little different animal we’re playing against.”