Nov. 14, 2003
Notre Dame, Ind. – The final exhibition test proved to be a real thriller for the Irish men’s basketball team at the Joyce Center. Behind Chris Thomas’ 26 points and Torin Francis’ 22 rebounds, Notre Dame finished 2-0 in exhibition play with a 97-88 victory over the Illinois All-Stars.
A familiar faced donned the opposing jersey as former Irish great and 11-year NBA standout LaPhonso Ellis, a 1992 graduate returned to the Joyce Center floor. Ellis, who recently retired from the NBA, was second-leading scorer for the Illinois All-Stars as he tallied 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds while playing all 45 minutes of the contest.
All five of Notre Dame’s starters scored in double figures as the Irish shot 48.6 percent from the field from the field and 50.0 percent from three-point range. The two teams combined for 29 three-pointers in the contest with the Irish hitting on 14 from beyond the arc. All five starters from the Illinois All-Stars registered double digits in the scoring department.
Torrian Jones, who finished with 18 points in the contest, sent the game into overtime with his two foul shots with one second remaining in regulation.
Notre Dame grabbed a five-point lead 1:30 into the overtime session on a layup by Jones and three-pointer by Thomas. Chris Alexander, who ended the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds, cut the lead to 90-87 with 3:19 to play. From that point on, the Irish went on a 7-1 run to end the game.
The Irish led by as many as eight points (its largest lead of the contest) on two occasions in the second half. Jones gave Notre Dame an eight-point lead (64-56) with 14:34 remaining in the second half before the visitors began cutting into the Irish lead. Ellis’ three-point basket tied the game at 68-68 with 9:30 remaining. Chris Quinn, Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer in the game with 19 points in, knocked down a three-pointer and then Jones pushed the lead to 73-68 on a breakaway dunk.
The Illinois All-Stars, however, came back to tie the game for the second time in the contest on Mac Irvin’s basket. Back-to-back layups by Jones gave the Irish a four-points lead, 77-73, with 6:38 remaining. The two teams traded three-point baskets and then the visitors grabbed the second lead of the game on a layup by Alexander with 2:11 left.
Thomas nailed a three-pointer to give the Irish a one-point lead, 82-81, before Ellis’ basket helped the visitors regain the lead. Francis nailed one of two free throws to tie the game at 83-83.
With 24 seconds remaining, Alexander’s layup gave the visitors a two-point lead. Corey Little, Illinois All-Stars leading scorer with 22 points, fouled Jones as he attempted to go for the rebound following Thomas’ missed three-pointer.
In addition to his 22 boards, Francis registered his second double double of the exhibition season as he netted 14 points. Jordan Cornette, who missed the first exhibition game with a knee injury, finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Notre Dame opens up the 2003-04 campaign at home against Northern Illinois on Monday, November 24 at 7:30 p.m.