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Irish hold on to win seventh straight game

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 didn't.''

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 his
team.

"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 eight
minutes.

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 and his salty
language could be clearly heard by the Joyce Center fans, who were
more than happy to egg him on.

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.

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