Notre Dame needed five extra minutes to get the job done but that's exactly what happened. In front of a boisterous Joyce Center crowd, the Irish were able to make the key plays down the stretch to secure a 81-74 victory. Notre Dame (15-4, 5-2) extended the home court winning streak to 32 games but this possibly was the toughest test to date. A few tense moments at the end of regulation led to another Joyce Center celebration, expect this time it took 45 minutes instead of the usual 40.
"So much was going through our heads," sophomore point guard Tory Jackson said. "We don't lose on our home court. We felt like if we could into overtime and get a stop at the end (of the second half), we felt like we were going to win. Overtime was like the beginning of the first half for us."
"We felt like no one is going to come in here and take this streak away from us," classmate Luke Harangody said. "That's what was on our mind at the end of the game."
One player who made a huge difference in the extra session was Jackson. The sophomore guard almost won it in regulation. After two Harangody free throws tied it up at 61-all, the Friars put the ball in the hands of Geoff McDermott. As the junior drove the lane as time was expiring, Jackson stripped the ball and headed down court. A 30-foot shot at the buzzer fell just short for the win.
"It was a reaction," Jackson said of the steal. "They had done the play a few times before. It was just a reaction."
No problem. Jackson's effort in overtime was anything but short. The sophomore point guard dished out three assists in the extra session, including a nifty pass down to his classmate Harangody that the big man dunked home, bringing the Joyce Center crowd to their feet.
Jackson also knocked down clutch free throws. Coming into Thursday, the sophomore was connecting on just 44 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe. After Brian McKenzie's three-pointer cut the Notre Dame lead to 75-72, Jackson coolly sank 3-of-4 free throws to put the contest on ice. The sophomore ended up with 14 points and seven assists. More importantly, Jackson's gutty play in overtime was the difference late in the home court winning streak reaching 32."We take pride in this," Jackson said of the Joyce Center streak. "It's our home floor. We would have hated to lose today. I felt like I had to do something to help us win. We all did a great job."
***Another game, another Harangody milestone. The sophomore forward has been on a tear this season and is defining what a "breakout year" is all about. In the victory over Providence (12-8, 3-5), Harangody notched 31 points and 14 rebounds. It was the sophomore's tenth double-double of the season and the 31 points are a new career-high. The performance bested a 29-point, 16-rebound effort in an earlier win this year against West Virginia. It was Harangody's tenth contest of 20-plus points and opponents know that No. 44 is going to be a load to stop down low.
"I just got a lot of confidence out there," Harangody said. "It comes from my teammates. They throw the ball into me in the post and let me go to work. I made a couple of bad decisions tonight where I should have slowed up. I'm getting better at that though. I'm just more relaxed this year."
Harangody was 11-of-22 from the field in setting the career-high. The sophomore was also 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Harangody, shooting 80 percent from the charity stripe heading into Thursday, made the biggest two at the end of regulation. With Providence leading 61-59 and under 30 seconds remaining, Ryan Ayers misfired on a three-pointer. McDermott came down with the rebound but got the ball stolen away by Harangody. The sophomore was fouled and calmly drained two free throws to send the contest into overtime.
"McDermott got the rebound," Harangody said of the key play. "He was looking around and standing right there. I don't know if he lost it or it ended up in my hands."
Harangody will once assume the league lead in scoring. Coming into Thursday, the sophomore was tied with Seton Hall's Brian Laing at 19.3 PPG for first. Harangody is making a strong case in the early conference race for Big East Player of the Year. The sophomore is just thinking about keeping Notre Dame towards the top of the league standings.
"It was a huge win for us," Harangody said. "It was one we really needed. The emotions of the game came out when we knew we had it. I'm excited because it was a win and a league win."
***What a difference a week makes. Before last Saturday's game at Villanova, Notre Dame sat at 3-2 in the conference. Fast forward five days later, the Irish now sit a 5-2 in the Big East and all alone in second-place behind 7-1 Georgetown.
***Notre Dame totaled 20 points in the five-minute overtime session on 5-of-6 shooting from the field and 8-of-10 from the free throw line.