Feb 22, 2003
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame almost blew another double-digit lead.
“Going into halftime, I’m thinking, ‘Here we go again,”‘ Irish coach Mike Brey said of seeing Notre Dame’s 12-point lead cut to one point.
Instead of blowing it, though, the 12th-ranked Irish rebuilt the lead, expanded it and won going away Saturday, scoring 64 points in the second half to beat Virginia Tech 98-76.
“I was happy with how we built on it in the second half,” Brey said. “I think it was our offensive efficiency that did it. We were unable to do it in the first half because we forced transition a little too much. We had it easy in the first four minutes, but once they adjusted and took some things away, we kept forcing it.”
The Irish (21-5, 9-3 Big East), who had squandered double-digit leads in four of their previous seven games, nearly found themselves behind again after Terry Taylor scored with 4 seconds left in the first half to cut the lead to 34-33. Eric Branham got a quick steal and threw up a shot at the buzzer, but it caromed off the rim.
Everybody shared the ball really well and when we do that, we’re going to be a heck of a team to beat.Chris Thomas
Dan Miller, who had 22 points, opened the second half with a 3-pointer, Jordan Cornette converted a three-point play and Thomas made two free throws as the Irish opened a 42-33 lead.
The Hokies (10-15, 3-9) closed to 42-37 on two free throws by Dimari Thompkins, but Carroll hit a 3-pointer and Thomas made a free throw as the Irish began to pull away. The Irish led 49-41 when a shot by Bryant Matthews was partially blocked by Torrian Jones. In the ensuing scramble, Matthews grabbed Matt Carroll, who was bent over, around the neck and threw him to the floor, leaving two scrape marks on Carroll’s neck.
Carroll, who led the Irish with 25 points, answered with a 16-foot jumper and a 3-pointer and Tom Timmermans added a dunk that spurred a 13-3 run.
“They started playing a little dirty and we got a little angry. It kind of helped us get going,” Carroll said. “I got a little angry inside, and it started coming out. I wanted to make them pay for it.”
The Irish did, as they continued to pull away.
Matthews, who didn’t have any fouls in the first half, picked up a second foul seconds after knocking down Carroll, sat for a minute, then knocked down Chris Thomas hard for his third foul.
“I thought he got a little frustrated in the second half,” Virginia Tech coach Ricky Stokes said.
Thomas had 21 points, six rebounds and tied a career-high with 13 assists. Jones scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half and had nine rebounds and five assists for Notre Dame.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” Thomas said. “Everybody shared the ball really well and when we do that, we’re going to be a heck of a team to beat.”
Taylor, who had sat out Virginia Tech’s loss at Boston College on Wednesday for violating team rules, scored 27 points for the Hokies, one point shy of his career high set against St. Bonaventure in November. Matthews added 19 points for the Hokies, who dropped to 1-9 on the road.
The Irish shot 72 percent from the field in the second half and forced eight turnovers after forcing just four in the first. The Irish shot 55 percent for the game, while the Hokies shot 43 percent.
Notre Dame also outrebounded the Hokies 43-28, marking just the third time in their last 17 games the Irish outrebounded an opponent.
“What we did today, we should do that all the time,” Brey said.