Nov. 4, 2004

SOUTH BEND, IND. – Senior guard Chris Thomas (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) netted a team-high 22 points to go along with five assists as the 21st-ranked Notre Dame men’s basketball team defeated Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) 80-67 in exhibition play at the Joyce Center on Thursday night. The Pumas’ Sullivan Sykes was the high-point man of the game as he scored 24 in a hard fought loss. Irish junior Chris Quinn (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman) scored 16 points with five rebounds. The game was the exhibition opener for both squads and was played as part of a new NCAA rule, which features NCAA Division I-A schools squaring off against other collegiate teams, instead of organized traveling squads, in pre-season contests.

The Irish opened on fire hitting their first seven shots, including two Quinn three-pointers, to stake an early seven-point lead. Saint Joseph’s, a NCAA Division II program, maintained its poise and eventually grabbed a four-point advantage (25-21) on a Derek Fey layup with 8:45 remaining in the opening half. Thomas responded with a three and Quinn would nail two more from beyond the arc to put the Irish back on top for good at the 7:28 mark. Notre Dame carried a 12-point lead (48-36) into the half.

“I like the new rule having to play college teams (in exhibitions),” said Irish head coach Mike Brey. “It was great for us. We had to prepare against a difficult system. They played hard. I don’t know if we’ll play against a team who changes ends as hard as they do.”

Saint Joseph’s cut the deficit to eight (51-43) early in the second stanza but Notre Dame, who shot 11-for-23 from behind the arc, got the lead back to double-digits with long-range shots from Quinn and Thomas. The Irish held on to a comfortable cushion the remainder of the contest to come away with the 13-point victory.

“I was pleased with how we played tonight,” commented Saint Joseph’s head coach Linc Darner, whose team out-rebounded the Irish 44-41. “I thought we rebounded really well and we hustled. It was a great opportunity to play a team like Notre Dame.”

Junior forward Torin Francis (Boston, Mass./Tabor Academy) had another solid outing for the Irish as he scored 12 points and grabbled a team-high nine rebounds. Sophomore Russell Carter (Paulsboro, N.J./Paulsboro) came off the bench in the first half and gave the team a spark collecting three boards and delivering a tip-in basket and a dunk, which put his squad up by nine, with just over three minutes left. Rob Kurz (Lower Gwynedd, Pa./Penn Charter), a freshman, also gave Notre Dame a lift off the bench in his Irish debut as he poured in nine points and four rebounds. Saint Joseph’s Rashad McSwine registered a double-figure scoring night with 10 points. Fey was the leading rebounding in the game with 10 to go along with his seven points.

Senior forward Jordan Cornette (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier) chipped in eight points and five rebounds, while Arizona transfer Dennis Latimore (Halstead, Kan./Halstead), a senior, scored six points and had four rebounds in his debut with the Irish. Notre Dame played 10 guys and were without junior forward Rick Cornett (Country Club Hills, Ill./Homewood Christian Academy), who is rehabbing an injury.

“I thought we were very unselfish,” stated Brey. “I liked that offensively. We are unselfish. We’re looking for each other. With our big guys handling the ball a little bit more we’re prone to turn it over a little bit. I think we have to clean that up some.”

— ND –