Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
March 15, 2006In case Torin Francis forgot the importance of post defense, Mike Brey offered a shrill reminder early in the second half of Notre Dame's 79-69 victory over Vanderbilt in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.
Nearly halfway through the senior's best game of the season, Brey whistled for a timeout after Francis let the Commodores' frontcourt go unchecked on consecutive possessions. Brey's berating lecture made Wednesday feel more like a Big East conference game than an under-the-radar match-up against a struggling SEC squad that drew just 3,314 to the Joyce Center.
"He called that timeout to make sure my head was still in the game defensively," Francis said. "That's where we were going to win the game, on the defensive end. Coach Brey, he wants to be just as intense as us and we wants to win just as bad as us."
Coaching one of college basketball's more reserved squads, Brey's spent the season searching for emotional buttons to press in timeouts, halftime rants or pre-game speeches. Against Vanderbilt he used all three, helping ignite Francis to his third double-double in the past five games with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Notre Dame (16-13) advances to play the winner of Friday's Michigan-UTEP game. If the Wolverines win at home, the Irish will play March 20 in Ann Arbor. If the Miners pull the upset, they'll visit the Joyce Center.
Vanderbilt ended the season at 17-13.
"I hope he's got a couple more (double-doubles) in him," Brey said. "With this team I've had to be more emotional before the game and so you pick your spots with certain guys, that gets them going."
Vanderbilt's reluctance to double team in the post, which Francis saw every night in the Big East, helped too. The Commodores played the senior forward one-on-one fearing Notre Dame's guards would catch fire from three-point range.
The Irish did connect on 9-of-19 triples with Colin Falls' four giving him a school record 100 for the season. Two came early in the first half when Vanderbilt held a 20-15 edge. Those triples, followed by a Francis free throw, pulled the Irish even at 22-22. Notre Dame never trailed again.
Falls and Chris Quinn each finished with 15 points.
Falls, working in concert with Russell Carter, also helped shut down Vanderbilt's leading scorer Shan Foster. The all-SEC forward finished with just four points on 1-of-9 shooting. Guard Derrick Byars led Vanderbilt with 18 points.
"I told [Falls] he's guarding himself," Brey said in reference to Foster's three-point shot.
At times Francis probably felt like he was playing by himself considering the laissez-faire approach Vanderbilt employed in the post. For how much the senior has floated on stat sheets this season, Brey insists the Irish always want to work Francis in the post. However, the forward rarely gets the room with which to work that the Commodores conceded.
"We always want to throw it in there and see what the weather's like, so to speak," Brey said. "Is it a night where he can get going? Is it a night where he's in a groove? Is it a night where the 255-pound guy from the Big East isn't putting a headlock on him?
"That just slipped out of my subconscious."
Rob Kurz flanked Francis in the frontcourt with nine points, nine rebounds and an inadvertent elbow to an official. When it came to bringing energy, the sophomore was one player Brey didn't have to light up.
"[Brey] wanted to make sure that everyone knew that we were playing to win and this was important to us. I think that was evident," Kurz said. "We started 1-8 but we fought our way back to go to the Big East Tournament and we're thankful to still be playing. A lot of teams aren't playing right now.
"We learned a lot from the experience of last year. We were embarrassed to end the season on a note like that with no energy."
Consider the Irish powered up.
Notre Dame NEWS