Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hoops: A Half Dozen Huge Wins in the Mike Brey Era

Tom Hamilton Contributor IIJanuary 23, 2012

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hoops: A Half Dozen Huge Wins in the Mike Brey Era

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    Over the weekend, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish basketball team pulled off perhaps the biggest win in the 12 year era of head coach Mike Brey. The Irish woke up the echos, dominating from start to finish in an amazing 67-58 victory over top ranked Syracuse.

    Notre Dame now has an awe inspiring six game winning streak while playing at home against number one teams.

    Although this is the first time Notre Dame has hosted a number one squad since they topped North Carolina 60-58 in 1987 and the first time in the Brey era, it still made many Irish fans hearken back to some incredible victories since Coach Brey took over following the 1999-2000 season. 

    In no particular order, let's take a look at a half dozen of Notre Dame's most substantial triumphs within that time frame.

Feb. 9, 2004. Notre Dame 80 UConn 74

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    Notre Dame point guard Chris Thomas scored 22 of his 31 points in the second half as the Irish toppled 5th ranked Connecticut. Notre Dame came into this contest riding a three game losing streak and had missed a chance to upset 4th ranked Pitt three days earlier when they were bested 66-58.

    Baby faced assassin Chris Quinn also contributed greatly adding 17 points. UConn was lead by monstrous center Emeka Okafor who tallied 24 points on 10 of 17 shooting.

    But the running and gunning Huskies were forced to operate in the half court, scoring only five fast break points and none in the decisive second half.

    Connecticut knotted the score at 69 on an Okafor put-back with 3:06 left in the game, but Thomas quickly answered with a deep three to put the Irish up for good.

    Notre Dame improved to 11-9  while UConn, who had won five straight coming in, dropped to 19-4. The Irish turned the ball over just four times.

Feb. 9, 2003. Notre Dame 66 Pittsburgh 64

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    The Irish had been mugged by the Panthers 72-55 in Pittsburgh the month before and Pitt came into the game ranked fourth in the nation. 

    Irish star Chris Thomas was just 2 of 15 from the field in the first meeting but brought his A-game for the rematch. Thomas poured in 24 points for the victors. 

    Thomas also held vaunted Pittsburgh guard Brandon Knight to just five points: a measly one for nine shooting from the field.

    But the one shot Knight made was a huge one as his three pointer tied the game at 64 with 32 seconds left. But that still left the Irish with plenty of time for one last possession. With the whole arena expecting Thomas to shoot it he found Torin Francis in the lane instead.

    The big forward laid it in with just .6 left on the clock sending the Joyce Center crowd into pandemonium. The Notre Dame players celebrated as the students rushed the floor.  

    Thomas and Knight traded barbs and trash talk throughout the game and Thomas reportedly told Knight: "It's just you and me," before shuttling the ball off to Francis for the game winner. 

Feb. 8, 2005. Notre Dame 68 Boston College 65

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    The same as Syracuse did last Saturday night the Eagles came in with an undefeated 20-0 record, although they were ranked fourth nationally and not first.

    Irish fans were still miffed at the Eagles for ruining the seasons of two unbeaten Notre Dame football teams: 41-39 in 1993 and 14-7 2002. The sport may have been different but the principle was the same and the Irish cagers were looking for a little bit of payback. 

    Irish sharpshooter Colin Falls chipped in with a career high 23 points as the Irish led from the beginning and then held off a late Boston College charge. 

    "I was a little shocked that they left him so open," Brey said of Falls, "but if they want to let him play horse, that's fine."

    This was Notre Dame's second win over a ranked team in three games. They had bested 19th ranked UConn 78-74 the previous week. 

    The Irish students wore T-shirts which said 20-1 and predictably rushed the floor as the final buzzer sounded. 

Feb. 9, 2002. Notre Dame 116 Georgetown 111 4OT

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    In the highest scoring game in Big East history, the Irish went well past regulation to score a rare road win against the Hoyas. 

    No Notre Dame team had ever played four overtimes and Georgetown hadn't been extended that far in 48 years. 

    Irish guard Chris Thomas played all 60 minutes and his jumper with just over two minute left in the fourth and final overtime gave Notre Dame the lead for good at 109-108. 

    Notre Dame forward Ryan Humphrey made several huge plays in overtime and finished with 23 points while hauling in 14 boards.

    Colossal Georgetown center Mike Sweetney was unstoppable while scoring 35 and gathering an unbelievable 20 rebounds, but the big man fouled out along with three of his teammates.

    Down several of those disqualified starters the Hoyas could only watch as the Irish outdistanced them in the final five minutes.

    The longest game in NCAA history went to seven extra periods in 1981, with Cincinnati finally outlasting the Bradley Braves 75-73.   

Dec. 7, 2006. Notre Dame 99 Alabama 85

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    Both Colin Falls and sophomore Kyle McAlarney threw in 20 points as Notre Dame buried fourth ranked Alabama in a cannon ball barrage of three point bombs. The Fighting Irish finished 12 of 28 from behind the arc. 

    Irish guard Russell Carter asserted himself, resulting in career high 27 point effort.

    Notre Dame had let several late leads slip away in a consternating 2004-05 season and it looked like the old phantoms were once again ready to show their evil faces when the Irish turned the ball over on three straight possessions as the Crimson Tide narrowed the gap to 85-82 late in the second half.  

    But the Irish reached back from something extra and out hustled Alabama in those final minutes. It didn't hurt that Notre Dame made their free throws down the stretch and finished 18 of 23 from the line.

    This was the most points scored by the Irish against a ranked opponent since 101-98 road win over tenth ranked Syracuse in 1992.

    It was the second straight win over a ranked team for Notre Dame following an 81-74 victory over 23rd rated Maryland a few days earlier.  

Dec. 8, 2002. Notre Dame 98 Texas 92

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    Notre Dame rounded off perhaps the best week of basketball in their hoop history with a high scoring, high flying win over second ranked Texas. 

    Chris Thomas sank two free throws with 26 ticks left to put the game out of reach. Thomas outplayed star counterpart T.J. Ford while scoring 19 points and doling out eight assists. 

    Sydmill Harris and Brian Boddicker combined to go 10 of 11 from three point land as the Longhorns made 14 three pointers overall but it was not enough. 

    With the win the Fighting Irish captured the championship trophy of the BB&T Classic.

    Ford was named the MVP of the tournament but definitely took that award home with an asterisk attached to it. 

    The win capped an astonishing run of three straight wins over top ten teams after the Irish had routed ninth ranked Marquette at the Joyce Center 91-72 earlier in the week, before downing host team and number eight Maryland 78-67 on Saturday.