The Irish, after a two-week layoff, turned to their best player, Luke Harangody, after halftime and he delivered. The sophomore scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half to fend off a pesky San Francisco team 84-76. In front of 8,048 fans at the Joyce Center, the Dons closed to five points with 14 minutes remaining in the contest. But it was Harangody who scratched and clawed his way to another big-time performance to improve Notre Dame to 8-2 on the season and capture the team's sixth straight win. The Irish have a one-week layoff before taking on Brown next Saturday night at the Joyce Center.
The victory is the team's 26th in a row at the Joyce Center, which extends the new school record set in the win over Northern Illinois two weeks ago. This victory was different than any of the other five home wins. The Dons, behind the offense of Dior Lowhorn and Manny Quezada, pushed the Irish in the second half. But Harangody's dominant second half was the recipe for success to finally stop the San Francisco surge.
"With the way it started, the people in the building and even our guys thinks it's going to be one of those where everyone plays," head coach Mike Brey said. "I give credit to San Francisco. I know they have talented offensive guys. They put 47 on us in the second half.
"They put game pressure on us. When we were in the midst of things, I was telling our guys, ‘This is a good thing.' We haven't had this in our building where we had to defend and get the ball in bounds and make some free throws and take away the three-point shot. You try to get something out of it."
Down 21 at one point in the first half and 43-29 at halftime, the Dons (4-8) showed a lot of fight after intermission to make this an exciting contest down the stretch. A Rob Kurz basket made it 50-33 Notre Dame. San Francisco turned to Quezada to get them back into the ballgame. The Dons promptly went on a 12-0 run and Quezada scored 10 of those points, his last basket cutting the Irish lead to 50-45.
With a possible upset in the making, Harangody decided it was time to take control of the game. The sophomore forward scored seven points in the first half but shot just 2-of-7 from the field. It was a different story after halftime as Harangody continued to muscle his way inside to stop the Dons' comeback attempt.
The sophomore forward scored 12 of the team's next 16 points to help push the lead to back up to 66-53. Harangody scored in a variety of ways. The sophomore hit 7-of-9 from the free throw line. Coming into the contest, the sophomore was shooting 73 percent from the charity stripe.
The two baskets that got the crowd up on their feet were the last two in the run. On a fastbreak, Harangody took a perfect pass from Tory Jackson and dunked the ball. On the following possession, the two sophomores hooked up again as Harangody beat the Dons defense down the court for an easy lay-up. The sophomore forward also grabbed 10 rebounds, which was good for his fifth double-double of the year. Brey has been saying Harangody is becoming a special player. The sophomore made good on his head coach's words in the second half.
"Our best comfort zone is when he's in the post and we play off of him," Brey said.
The pesky Dons team didn't back down until the final horn. Down 75-60 with 1:50 to play, San Francisco made one more late push. Quezada scored 12 of his team's next 16 points to cut Notre Dame's lead to 81-76 with less than 20 seconds to go. Quezada led USF with 25 points while Lowhorn added 20. The Irish helped the Dons with turnovers and several missed free throws but eventually the final buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame an eight-point victory and a hard-earned win.
The game was Jackson's best of the year. The sophomore scored 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting and dished out 10 assists for his first double-double of the season and second of his career. Jackson, the emotional leader on the court for Notre Dame, had scored in double digits just twice this season and connected on only 10-of-his-last 26 shot attempts. Coming into Saturday, Jackson was hitting 35 percent from the field. But the sophomore guard fought his way to a season-high in both points and assists.
"Since exams, we've wanted him to get into the lane and finish plays and not overanalyze passing situations," Brey said. "I thought he started the game making great decisions. He put a lot of pressure on them the whole night. He gets every loose ball. Hopefully, it's something we can build on because we're going to need him to play like when we get into it and against Brown."
SAN FRANCISO 76: Lowhorn 7-15, 4-5 20; Cavic 5-9, 0-0 13; Taylor 2-4, 1-2 5; Quezada 11-24, 2-2 25; Strong 3-8, 1-2 7; Casey 1-3, 2-2 4; Hernandez 1-2, 0-0 2; Morgan 0-3, 0-0 0; Hadley 0-0, 0-0 0; Totals: 30-68, 10-13 76.
NOTRE DAME 84: Kurz 5-9, 1-1 12; Harangody 8-17, 7-9 23; Jackson 6-11, 3-5 15; McAlarney 3-10, 6-7 14; Ayers 3-8, 0-0 9; Peoples 1-1, 0-0 3; Hillesland 1-1, 6-8 8; Zeller 0-2, 0-2 0; Totals: 27-59, 23-32 84.