Harangody and McAlarney combined for 39 points in the second half, 24 of those from Harangody, and the Irish offense got hot after intermission to help beat Cincinnati 91-74. In front of 10,231 fans at the Joyce Center, it was the tale of two halves, as Notre Dame couldn't buy a bucket before halftime before lighting it up in the final 20 minutes of play.
The Irish's comeback win was the team's 31st straight at home and 12th in a row against Big East Conference foes in the Joyce Center. Notre Dame improves to 13-3 on the year and 3-1 in the league action. The Irish, like last Saturday's contest against Marquette, will play another measuring stick game when the team goes on the road Saturday to face No. 6 Georgetown.
The win on Tuesday also avoids a two-game losing streak before a daunting back-to-back road trip. After the Hoyas contest on Saturday, Notre Dame is off a week before facing No. 21 Villanova. Consecutive losses heading into the road trip would have spelled trouble for the Irish early in Big East play. But Harangody and McAlarney's big second halves and Notre Dame's sizzling offensive performance after halftime were the big reasons why this scenario was avoided.
"We'll take it," head coach Mike Brey said. "It's a Big East win. I thought the first half, their athletic ability on the offensive end and their strength physically really bothered us. We couldn't get into any kind of rhythm. I'm proud of our group because we did a good job responding. That's a tough halftime. You're coming off Saturday and maybe you're starting to wonder a bit. We showed great resiliency."
The first half was not a pretty sight for the Joyce Center faithful. Notre Dame shot just 24 percent from the floor and was down 34-27 at halftime. The Irish couldn't even make the easy shots, evident when Rob Kurz missed a uncontested dunk. The Bearcats were dominating down in the paint area, outscoring Notre Dame 18-6. Coupled with this, Cincinnati held Harangody, the Irish's leading scorer, to 0-of-5 from the floor and just two points before halftime.
Whatever Brey said at halftime worked because Harangody asserted himself big time in the final 20 minutes of action. After the Bearcats (8-9, 3-2) hit a basket to go up 38-30, the sophomore forward had had enough. Harangody scored the team's next 11 points, the last two from the free throw line, to cut the deficit to 42-41. Ryan Ayers stole the inbound pass and the junior's lay-up gave Notre Dame their first lead since the 11-minute mark of the first half.
Harangody wasn't done. The sophomore forward powered his way to 24 second half points and 25 for the game, including 13-of-15 from the free throw line. As a team, the Irish shot 34-of-42 from the charity stripe. Harangody was more assertive after halftime and his teammates continued to feed him the ball. The sophomore forward came through with another productive effort and No 44 is on a roll in Big East play.
"I thought we did a good job of getting it to him," Brey said of Harangody. "I thought their double teams were a bit slower in the second half and he was able to get going. His motor gets us confident. His psyche makes us confident. When you're playing with him, you believe. I think it got contagious with the energy and how he plays."
Rob Kurz also did his dirty work down low. The senior forward finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, good for his sixth double-double of the season. Along with Harangody and Kurz on the offensive end, McAlarney was a major force against the Bearcats, especially in the second half.
The junior guard was one of the bright spots in the first half. McAlarney shot 3-of-5 from the field before halftime and led the team with seven points. In the second half, the junior stayed hot and hit several big shots to push the Notre Dame momentum. A McAlarney three-pointer pushed a one-point lead to 46-42 and another made bucket from behind the arc finished off a 17-2 run that gave the Irish a 54-44 advantage. The junior, coming off an eight-point performance against Marquette, finished with 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. McAlarney and Harangody spearheaded a 64-point second half output as Notre Dame shot 69 percent in the final 30 minutes of action.
"I turned to one of my coaches and said, "We're all of a sudden up 14,'" Brey said about the second half. "When the bomb goes off for us offensively, it can go off. And then, run for cover. I like watching it."
CINCINNATI 74: Sikes 2-5, 4-4 8; Vaughn 3-13, 2-2 10; Williamson 5-9, 0-0 10; Davis 4-, 0-0 10; Belton 4-8, 0-1 8; Bishop 3-7, 1-1 8; Gentry 3-5, 0-0 7; McClain 3-5, 0-0 6; Warren 2-6, 0-1 4; Hrycanluk 1-7, 0-0 2; Mitchell 0-3, 1-2 1; Totals: 30-75, 8-11 74.
NOTRE DAME 91: Harangody 6-14, 13-15 25; McAlarney 7-10, 3-4 22: Kurz 4-11, 8-9 17; Ayers 2-2, 2-4 7; Zeller 2-4, 0-0 6; Jackson1-5, 2-2 5; Hillesland 0-2, 3-4 3; Peoples 2-3, 3-4 7; Totals: 24-51, 34-42 91.