SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Fastbreak dunks, long runs and an
angry visiting coach energized Notre Dame in the first half,
and the Irish played like a team worthy of its best ranking
in 21 years.Then the second half brought a reminder that a
high rating usually brings out the opposition's best effort.
Chris Thomas scored 19 points and Matt Carroll added 15 as
Notre Dame (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) held off a late
run to beat Vanderbilt 76-63 on Monday night.
"I think we got a little lazy,'' said Torrian Jones,
who scored 12 points. "We got a big lead and expected
them to roll over like some of the past teams we played. They
The Irish (11-1), who have won seven straight, are off to
their best start since they were 12-1 to open the 1978-79
season. They hold their highest AP 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.
The Commodores scored 16 points off 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.
Irish coach Mike Brey then called a timeout and challenged
"He challenged us to play defense the way we had all
season long,'' Jones said. "We definitely knew we had
a little game pressure on us.''
Thomas and Freije swapped two free throws each and Notre
Dame's lead stayed at six with 8:27 left.
The Irish then responded to Brey's message. They closed the
game on a 14-7 run, as Vanderbilt missed 10 shots in the final
Notre Dame sealed the win at the end with free throws. The
Irish went 21-for-29 from the line and improved to 8-0 at
home and put behind them a disappointing second-half effort.
Brey said the Irish needed a reminder that every game wouldn't
be easy as their last two, which they won by a combined total
of 49 points.
"You think it's going to be showtime for 20 minutes
in the second and it isn't,'' he said. "But I like the
way we reacted.''
Torin Francis had 11 points and 11 rebounds 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. 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.
Stallings was much more subdued with his team at halftime.
"I didn't go in and tear anything off the wall because
I thought Notre Dame played very well,'' he said.