Irish Survive

SOUTH BEND, IN- With just a little over 20 seconds left, the chances of Notre Dame's 31-game home court winning streak staying alive seemed bleak. That was until Luke Harangody found himself at the right place, at the right time.

Following a Friar defensive rebound, the sophomore forward stuck his hand out in front of a Geoff McDermott pass, stealing it and quickly looked for an easy lay up. Harangody was then fouled and needed to sink both free throws to knot the contest at 61-all.

Providence Head coach Tim Welsh tried to explain the reasoning behind the decision of his junior forward. "He was playing too smart," Welsh said. "Geoff got the rebound and knew the would foul quickly. He saw a better free-throw shooter and passed it off, but Harangody stepped in and made the play."

As the Big East's leading scorer stepped up to the line, any one of the 10,179 in attendance could hear a pin drop. The 80.9 percent career free-throw shooter calmly sunk both attempts, leaving the Friars 18.7 seconds to try and pull out the upset.

As Providence was setting up its offensive plan, Tory Jackson stole the ball, staggered up the floor and eventually came up six inches short on a 45-foot desperation three-point shot, sending the game into overtime, where the Irish would eventually heat up and take the 81-74 victory. The Friars fell to 12-8 overall and 3-5 in Big East play, whereas Notre Dame improved to 15-4 and 5-2 in conference play, leaving them in second place.

The first half proved to be a rollercoaster ride that saw both squads each amass their own 18-2 runs. Harangody started the Irish off with their first eight points, attacking the Friar man-to-man. The sophomore forward went up against forward Randall Hanke as well as center Ray Hall. Once the slower, but physically larger sophomore center was in the game, Harangody tried to use his speed to create opportunities for the Irish.

Notre Dame went 13-for-27 from the field in the first half, but oddly enough, didn't commit to its usual points of attack. The Irish shot just seven three-pointers, converting on three of them. Additionally, the Friars outscored Notre Dame in the paint by a margin of 18-12, highlighting the Irish ability to sink mid-range jump shots creating an offensive balance.

While Notre Dame looked to its star in Harangody for points, the Friars had a far more even dispersal of scoring. The Providence leading scorer at the half was Dwain Williams, who tallied seven points. Xavier, and Jonathan Kale followed in line with six points.

To create the majority of its scoring opportunities, Notre Dame emphasized creative passing, typically originating from penetration by guards Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney. Once the wings received the ball, they quickly looked for the extra pass, often times finding Harangody down low, who finished the half with 13 points. The up-tempo, back and forth style of play created a tight, 32-31 Friar lead at the half that was an indicator of the exciting finish.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey may have been caught slightly off guard by the Friar game plan, leading to the even matchup. "Its definitely something to build on," Brey said. "We weren't flowing offensively, and expected more zone than they gave us, and they played excellent man-to-man."

The lethal sophomore duo of Jackson and Harangody felt the pressure and took matters into their own hands, leading the Irish charge. Jackson, who had only two first-half points, feverishly directed the fast breaks, picking up seven assists, dumping the rock off to big men Rob Kurz and Harangody. Although the senior captain was in foul trouble for a great deal of the game, Kurz finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

However, it was the second-year players who willed the Irish victory. "Jackson and Harangody's will was just too strong today," Brey said. "They were thinking, ‘you're not getting out of here with a win.' They've become the veterans in our program. They would just not let us lose the game. Those two are unique in that their will is special."

Once in overtime, Notre Dame wasn't taking any chances. Right out of the gate, Rob Kurz drained a three pointer to invigorate the crowd. Although Providence answered back with a three of its own, Harangody sank a pair of free throws, followed by a Ryan Ayers three pointer. With a five-point lead, the Irish gained momentum and didn't look back. The final minutes consisted of a couple Tory Jackson-to-Luke Harangody combinations that helped Notre Dame pull away.

Coach Brey wanted to make sure the NCAA's third-longest home winning streak stayed intact. "When we were in the huddle, I told them, ‘Let's start the overtime like we started the game. Don't play safe. Shoot, drive, pass. Let's attack,'" he said.

Don't let the jovial post-game grin on Brey's face fool you. He wants to make sure his team doesn't slip up within the next games. "That was a heck of a night at the Joyce," Brey said. "Well, we're going to enjoy this one for about 30 minutes, and then we have to get the DePaul tape rolling. Winning on the road was a big step for us Saturday. We need a little rest, but we won't watch any of this. We need to start with DePaul. Saturday is coming fast."

PROVIDENCE 74: McDermott 5-13, 0-2, 10; Hanke 2-2, 0-0, 4; Xavier 4-10, 0-0, 10; Williams 6-20, 4-4, 20; McKenzie 4-13, 0-0, 10, Peterson 2-4, 0-0, 4; Kale 3-6, 0-0, 6; Hall 4-5, 2-10, 10; Totals 30-73, 6-16, 74.

NOTRE DAME 81: Kurz 2-8, 6-6, 11; Hillesland 3-5, 1-2, 7; Harangody 11-22, 9-10, 31; Jackson 5-9, 4-6, 14, McAlarney 3-11, 0-0, 8; Ayers 3-5, 2-3, 10; Totals 27-61, 22-27, 81.


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