- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

The effort was there, but the mental focus was not. Georgetown played well enough to win its regular-season finale yesterday but did not make enough plays when it counted to beat a ranked team.
No.16 Notre Dame did its best to help by turning the ball over a season-high 22 times and allowing the Hoyas to grab 22 offensive rebounds. Nonetheless, point guard Chris Thomas scored 16 of his game-high 29 points in the final 10:48 as the NCAA-bound Fighting Irish snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating Georgetown 86-80 before 17,875 at MCI Center.
The Hoyas (14-13, 6-10 Big East) didn't need this game because a win or a loss would not change their seeding for this week's Big East tournament in New York. However, a little momentum heading into the Big Apple never hurts.
The Irish (22-8, 10-6) virtually handed the Hoyas this one, and Georgetown didn't want it. The Hoyas scored just 17 points off the multitude of Irish turnovers.
"We got 22 offensive rebounds, we forced 22 turnovers, and you don't make some of the decisions that you need to make to win a ball game like that," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. "Notre Dame is too good to just hustle [against]. You have to hustle and you have to make smart plays and good decisions. … It's not just at the end of the game it's during the course of the game."
Meanwhile, virtually the entire Villanova basketball team the Hoyas' likely opponent in Wednesday's tournament first round was implicated in a telephone scandal involving the unauthorized use of a university access code.
The school suspended 12 players for today's game against No.7 Pittsburgh, leaving the Wildcats with just seven. Villanova's athletic department said suspensions will range from three to eight games, depending on the amount of money each player accrued in calls.
If the suspensions are enforced, that would mean Villanova's seniors guard Gary Buchanan, 6-foot-7 forward Ricky Wright, 6-7 forward Andrew Sullivan and seldom-used guard Lou Ruskey would not play against the Hoyas because their suspensions cannot carry over to next season. Villanova said it plans to rotate the suspensions to cover just three players a game, starting against Georgetown, but said nothing about the status of the team's seniors.
Asked if he knew of the suspensions, Esherick replied jokingly, "I've got enough problems of my own."
Notre Dame's Thomas, who finished with a season-high 10 turnovers, broke open the game with his shooting. With the score tied 55-55 and a little over 10 minutes remaining, Irish scoring leader Matt Carroll (21.1) picked up his fourth foul and was benched. That must have been the cue Thomas needed.
Thomas made two huge 3-pointers and added an old-fashioned three-point play in a little over three minutes to fuel a 20-8 Irish run that gave Notre Dame a 76-63 lead with 4:06 left.
"I did what I could in the flow of the offense," Thomas said. "I felt like I was getting better shots than I'm used to."
To their credit, the Hoyas did not give up. Esherick deployed a fullcourt man-to-man press as Georgetown clawed back. Trailing 79-69, the Hoyas went on a 10-2 run to make it a two-point game at 81-79 with 40.6 seconds left. However, Thomas clinched matters for the Irish when he went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 16.9 seconds. For the game, he made eight of nine free throws and was nine of 16 from the floor.
"Chris Thomas was simply spectacular controlling the game and defending," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "He refused to let us lose."
Mike Sweetney led the Hoyas with 26 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Shooting guard Gerald Riley scored 21 points on eight of 16 shooting and point guard Tony Bethel added 17.
Notre Dame shot 60.9 percent from the field (14 of 23) in the second half. The Irish were outstanding from behind the 3-point arc, making 11 of 24 3-pointers (45.8 percent) for the game.

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