Texas Coach Rick Barnes could not believe the progress Notre Dame freshman forward Torrin Francis has made recently.
Francis came two blocks shy of a triple-double yesterday in the Irish's 98-92 upset win against No. 2 Texas in the BB&T Classic championship game at MCI Center. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward out of Roslindale, Mass., finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 8 blocks.
"He's improved as much as any player in college basketball in two weeks because I saw him a couple weeks ago and he couldn't make a layup," Barnes said.
Francis, who played a big part in Notre Dame's win over Maryland on Saturday, continued his strong play against the Longhorns. Six of his eight blocks came in the first half as the Irish completely neutralized Texas's inside game.
"He made some great blocks," Barnes said. "You've got to give him credit. You look at our post players: James Thomas goes 1 for 6. Brad Buckman goes 1 for 7. . . . What bothered me more than anything is the fact that he's 7 for 12 from the floor and he was getting such low-post position."
Francis made several beautiful low post moves, including an up-and-under against Deginald Erskin early in the second half. He also was effective from the free throw line, making 7 of 8 foul shots. He sank two free throws with nine seconds remaining to seal the victory.
"The game was on the line," Francis said. "I knew I just had to step up to the line and hit the free throws. I didn't really feel any pressure."
Nicholas Finds His Touch
Drew Nicholas's outside shooting touch, which had been missing the last few games, returned against George Washington. Nicholas came into the game having missed his past eight three-point attempts. He hadn't made a shot from beyond the arc since he went 3 of 6 against Duquesne on Nov. 30. Less than four minutes into the game, Nicholas sank his first three-pointer. He finished 5 of 7 from three-point range. . . .
Texas sophomore guard Sydmill Harris was impressive from behind the three-point arc against Notre Dame. Harris made a career-high 6 of 6 three-point attempts. Coming into the game, Harris had made only four three-pointers this season.
"I thought Sydmill Harris would be a big, big factor in this game," Barnes said. "He's capable of doing that."
GW's Fab Freshmen
Despite losing both games, George Washington was encouraged by the play of two of its freshmen. Forwards Alex Kireev and Omar Williams had gotten off to slow starts this season, but both played well against Maryland. Kireev doubled his season high, scoring 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Williams also had career highs in points (17) and rebounds (eight).
The 'Zags in 2003?
The field for next year's BB&T Classic has not been set. Gonzaga is a strong possibility to join Maryland and George Washington, according to tournament organizer John Feinstein.