Dec 30, 2002
By DAN GELSTON
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Chris Thomas scored 19 points and Matt Carroll added 15 as No. 6 Notre Dame beat Vanderbilt 76-63 Monday night.
The Irish (11-1) are off to their best start since they were 12-1 to open the 1978-79 season. They hold their highest ranking since being No. 4 in January 1981.
It looked like the Irish would cruise after a taking a 20-point lead in the first half. Then sloppy play early in the second allowed the Commodores (6-4) to rally.
The Irish had 10 turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the second half and Vanderbilt, which struggled offensively in the first half, took advantage. They scored 16 points off Notre Dame turnovers in the second half, helping cut the gap to six.
Matt Freije, who scored 23 points, and Russell Lakey, with 12, each hit 3-pointers during a 19-7 run that sliced the deficit to 60-54.
Thomas and Freije swapped two free throws each and Notre Dame’s lead stayed at six with 8:27 left.
The Irish then closed the game on a 14-7 run and sealed it at the end with free throws. They went 21-for-29 from the line.
Torin Francis had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Torrian Jones added 12 points for the Irish.
Julian Terrell had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Vanderbilt.
Notre Dame shot 57 percent in the first half and forced 12 turnovers.
They disrupted Vanderbilt’s offense and agitated coach Kevin Stallings.
Stallings wasn’t happy with the officiating and his salty language could be clearly heard by the Joyce Center fans, who were more than happy to egg him on.
Late in the first half, he came out of the coaches box to argue what he felt was a missed foul call. Two minutes later his coat came off and shortly after that he was whistled for a technical for arguing a foul against the Commodores.
Carroll hit all four free throws, extending the lead to 37-20. The Irish took a 45-27 lead into halftime.