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    Irish Trounce Western Illinois, 78-61

    FIGHTING IRISH Chris Thomas is fouled by Western Illinois forward Eulis Baez during the first half.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Chris Thomas is fouled by Western Illinois forward Eulis Baez during the first half.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Dec. 28, 2004

    Box Score

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - No matter how close he gets, senior Chris Thomas can't quite duplicate his first game at Notre Dame, when he recorded the only triple-double in Irish history.

    Thomas narrowly missed reaching the milestone again for the second straight game - coming up one rebound and one assist short - as he scored a game-high 21 points to lead Notre Dame to a 78-61 win against Western Illinois Tuesday night.

    "I was able to make players around me better tonight, especially in the first half," said Thomas, who had all nine of his assists before the break.

    Against Marist on Dec. 22, Thomas missed a triple-double by two rebounds and an assist. He is averaging 17 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 8.3 assists over his last three games.

    Dennis Latimore tied his season high with 18 points. Colin Falls, who shot 5-for-9 from 3-point range, added 17 points for the Irish, and Chris Quinn chipped in 11.

    "This is probably the best group of guards we played against because they know their roles," Western Illinois coach Derek Thomas said. "They were the difference to me."

    The Irish, who never trailed, opened the game with a 12-2 run over the first 3:40 and led 45-32 at the half.

    Western Illinois closed to within 54-46 early in the third quarter on a Baez layup, but Thomas scored the game's next seven points to give Notre Dame a 15-point lead and put the game out of reach.

    "He just kept the game so simple," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "He has not felt like, 'Uh-oh, I've got to jump-start us."'


     

     

    Eulis Baez scored a team-high 13 points for Western Illinois. Will Lewis was the only other Leatherneck in double figures with 11.

    The Irish, who have won their last three games, conclude their five-game homestand Thursday against Samford before beginning Big East play Jan. 5 at Seton Hall.

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