Notre Dame defeated Seton Hall 95-69 Wednesday night in South Orange, improving their record to 17-4 overall and 7-2 in Big East play. The Irish shot 54 percent for the game and sank their first 12 shots. Since losing at home to Marquette on January 12, the Irish have gone 5-1, falling only to first-pace Georgetown and scoring over 80 points in each victory.
The Irish are dangerous because they have two ways to beat teams. They can either pound it inside with their 250-pound farm boy, Luke Harangody, or they can rely on a cadre of three-point marksmen, led by junior Kyle McAlarney. Together, Harangody and McAlarney have held Big East player of the week honors since mid January.
A good three-point shooting performance and a solid effort inside from Harangody usually go hand-in hand. With Harangody established inside, teams are forced to collapse or double-down in the paint, opening up shooters outside. And when Harangody's supporting cast is dialed in from outside, opposing defenders must spread farther and close out on the perimeter, making the entry passes inside that much easier.
Against DePaul, an 89-80 Irish win, it was Harangody scoring early and often. The big man scored Notre Dame's first nine points on his way to 29 for the game. He added 14 rebounds, and his efforts on the glass were a big part of Notre Dame's 30-10 edge in second-chance points. The Irish shot 36 percent from three in this game, with McAlarney going 5-13 by himself.
"Luke's second chance points that he gives us is such a huge lift," said McAlarney. "His energy and emotion out there and his will to get his hands on the ball is something that no one else can do in this league."
Cincinnati was a true double-team effort as well, with the team shooting a whopping 53 percent from beyond the arc and Harangody tallying 25 points. The Irish won 91-74, their biggest win in conference play until Wednesday's thrashing of Seton Hall.
Against the Pirates, Harangody tallied 22 points and 13 rebounds while McAlarney hit five three-pointers en route to 19 total points. The Irish shot 47 percent from beyond the arc and out-rebounded Seton Hall 44-29.
Lately, even when one part of the equation falters, the other is usually able to pick up the slack.
For example, Harangody carried the Irish in an 81-74 win over Providence in which the Irish did not shoot particularly well. Harangody rampaged for a career-high 31 points and 14 rebounds. Notre Dame shot just 31 percent from beyond the arc, including 0-6 from deep in the fourth quarter, and McAlarney shot just 3-11 for eight points. However, a clutch 2-3 from deep in overtime was a big part of the win.
By contrast, in a 90-80 win over Villanova, it was Notre Dame's three-point shooting that got them going. The Irish made 47 percent of their treys in this game, and although Harangody went for 25 and 10, he didn't score his first basket until 6:44 remained in the first half. McAlarney was the game's leading scorer with 30 points on 10-15 shooting (5-8 three-point shooting).
On the flipside, nothing was working against the Hoyas. The Irish shot only 28 percent from long-range (and only 32 percent from the field) and Harangody was held to 13 points on 3-11 shooting.
The last time Marquette played Notre Dame, they were able to cool the Irish perimeter game, while using a shooting onslaught of their own to overcome what was then a career day for Harangody. With the second meeting of the year set for the Joyce Center, the Golden Eagles will have their work cut out for them trying to upset the balance of the Irish offense. The two teams tip off at 11 a.m. CST Saturday.