Luke Harangody battled his way down low for 29 points and 14 rebounds, 10 on the offensive glass, to propel Notre Dame to a 89-80 victory over the Blue Demons. In front of 11,418 fans at the Joyce Center, the Irish's big sophomore continued to let his play speak for itself as one of the Big East Conference's best players The effort helped Notre Dame extend the home court winning streak to 33, which is the third longest in the nation. The Irish will try to make it four league wins in a row on Wednesday as the team goes on the road to battle Seton Hall.
Harangody wasn't alone in helping Notre Dame to the win. DePaul was within two points with just over five minutes remaining. But a quick offensive burst, a mainstay at the Joyce Center for the Irish during the winning streak, put the Blue Demons away for good. It helped push Notre Dame's record to 16-4 overall and 6-2 in the Big East, good for second-place in the conference. It was another stern test for the Irish but one the team answered with clutch play in the final few minutes.
"I'm happy with how we handled the week," head coach Mike Brey said. "We talked about this week making a move. Certainly tonight, DePaul really challenged us. We couldn't get away from them. A couple of times, we would get away and they would come back. DePaul makes you shoot it good. Again, I was proud. Just like against Providence, our will and our poise was excellent."
For 15 minutes of the first half, the contest resembled the Providence game of a few days ago. Notre Dame had not found their offensive groove while the Blue Demons continued to hang around. But in usual Irish form at home, Notre Dame exploded in the final five minutes before halftime to push a 27-25 advantage to 46-35 into the locker room. Luke Harangody had 10 of the 19 points while Kyle McAlarney connected on a pair of three-pointers. McAlarney shot just 5-of-17 from the field but did hit five baskets from behind the arc, good for 17 points.
As for Harangody, what else can be said about his super sophomore season? The Schererville, IN native has been consistently great in 2007-08, leading the Big East in scoring and notching one double-double after another. Saturday's one was the eleventh of the season and third straight and by halftime, the sophomore had 19 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
Another positive of Harangody's game is his free throw shooting. The sophomore was hitting on 81 percent from the charity stripe heading into Saturday. With how physical Harangody is down in the paint area, it's hard not to foul him. Harangody hit 9-of-12 from the free throw line on Saturday. Two days after setting a career-high in points with 31, it was just another day at the office for one of the Big East's best.
"It's scary" Brey said of Harangody's production. "It's unbelievable. At halftime, I'm handed the stats and he's got 19 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes. Is anybody doing that in the country? Nobody is doing that in the country. It's special to watch. What makes it more special is that he's a down-to-earth guy and just wants to be one of the guys and wants to win and be one of the guys. It's refreshing and it sets the tone."
Despite Harangody's excellent showing, DePaul (9-12, 4-5) wasn't going to go back to Chicago without a fight first. The Blue Demons were down 12 at one point early in the second half but made a run to put a scare into the Irish. The two main weapons behind this spurt were Draelon Burns and Dar Tucker. Burns ended up with 17 points while Tucker had a team-high 19.
A Burns three-pointer cut the Notre Dame lead to 71-68 with just under six minutes remaining. Thoughts of Thursday's contest against Providence were beginning to creep into the minds of the Joyce Center faithful. But Notre Dame showed it didn't want this game going down to the final possession and into overtime.
Ryan Ayers got the spurt going with a short jumper and Harangody followed it up with a tip-in to make it 75-68. On the next possession, Ayers got the crowd off their feet with a dunk on a perfect pass from Tory Jackson. After Burns drained another three-pointer, Zack Hillesland responded with a lay-up to give the Irish an insurmountable 81-71 lead. Rob Kurz complimented Harangody down low with eight points and 12 rebounds, another solid effort from the senior captain. Every time the Blue Demons got close, Notre Dame pushed their opponent a comfortable distance away.
"I thought we got better defensively," Brey said about the last run. "They made a couple of tough three's when we got up 12. They made tough shots. We got out of our zone and locked up in man. Again, I thought we were smart offensively. We made some shots and kept attacking. Through it, we were poised."
DEPAUL 80: Clinkscales 3-6, 1-1 7; Clarke 2-4, 0-0 5; Burns 7-18, 0-0 17; Green 4-10, 0-0 9; Koshwal 9-16, 0-0 18; Currie 0-0, 0-0 0; Tucker 7-11, 0-2 19; Walker 2-4, 0-0 5; Poscic 0-1, 0-0 0; Totals: 34-70, 1-3 80.
NOTRE DAME 89: Jackson 4-9, 0-0 8; Hillesland 4-6, 2-2 10; McAlarney 5-17, 2-2 17; Kurz 2-7, 4-4 8; Harangody 10-22, 9-12 29; Zeller 2-5, 0-0 6; Ayers 4-8, 0-0 9; Peoples 1-1, 0-0 2; Totals: 32-75, 17-20 89.