Notre Dame built a 19 point lead early in the second half, but USF would not quit. The Bulls pressured the Irish on the perimeter, limiting the conference's best three point team to just 5-16 shooting from beyond the arc; but Harangody, Kurz, and Zach Hillesland combined to make 18 of their 26 two point shots to keep USF at bay.
ND opened the game with 4 quick baskets. Harangody passed to Kyle McAlarney from the post for a three pointer. Then Harangody hit a jumper from just inside the arc. Next McAlarney fed Kurz cutting to the basket, and Zach Hillesland followed with a transition drive to the basket. USF only mustered a Gransberry free throw in that stretch as the Irish ran to a 9-1 lead.
USF countered with baskets from Kentrell Gransberry and Mobolaji Ajayi; but ND answered with a pair of Hillesland drives, one for a basket and one for an assist as the defense rotated away from Harangody. Notre Dame led 13-5 at the first media time out.
The Irish scored twice out of the time out, Harangody from the post and a McAlarney three that bounced twice on the rim before falling; but ND's outside shooting cooled after that, and USF crept back into the game. When Jones drew Kurz's third foul on a drive for a hoop and followed with a three point basket, the lead was cut to 23-19 with 7:06 to play.
ND continued to get and miss good outside shots, and a Jesus Verdejo three with 6:03 left in the half cut the lead to 1 point. Hillesland answered, first converting a beautiful pass from Zeller and then converting a fast break drive into a 27-22 lead with 4:42 left in the half.
Notre Dame closed the half strong. Tory Jackson made a layup of his own and assisted on one by Luke Zeller, Harangody tipped in a McAlarney miss for 2 points, and Jackson hit a running three pointer at the buzzer to send ND to halftime with a 36-27 lead.
Harangody led the Irish with 10 first half points, and Hillesland added 8. The Irish were just 3-11 from three point range, but their interior passing carried them to 52% shooting overall. Jones had 8 points for USF. Verdejo scored 6, and ND held Gransberry to just 5 points.
Notre Dame started the second half intent on putting the game away early. Harangody opened with a basket from the post; and a beautiful break – McAlarney stole the ball and passed to Kurz who fed Harangody for two more - keyed an Irish run to a 52-33 lead.
USF wanted no part of a blowout. The Bulls countered with 12-0 and 11-0 runs during the next 8 minutes to close the score to 56-55. The Irish took those punches and regrouped. Jackson assisted Kurz for two points and followed with a rebound, break, and pass to Harangody cutting to the basket. Then Harangody was fouled and made both free throws to put the lead back to 5 points.
Unfortunately for ND, Kurz drew his 5th foul contesting a rebound with 3:50 to play; and the Irish would have to finish the game without their best free throw shooter. He was missed in the closing minutes.
After a Jackson fed Harangody for a layup and a 62-58 Notre Dame lead, the Big East's best free throw shooting team missed several opportunities to close the game at the line. The Irish made just 1 of their next 7 free throws including 3 of missed front ends of one and one opportunities. USF did not take advantage, and Ryan Ayers finally made a pair of free throws to give his team some breathing room. McAlarney added a pair of freebies with 15 seconds left to make the final score 67-60.
Notre Dame came into the game shooting 41% from three point distance in Big East games, but the Irish made just 5 of 16 from long range on Saturday. However, ND made 21 of its 35 two point attempts, a 60% shooting percentage.
USF out-rebounded Notre Dame thanks to a 15-5 offensive rebounding advantage. Long rebounds off of missed shots accounted for the lion's share of USF's extra possessions as the Bulls made just 3 of 19 three point attempts. However, USF only converted its 15 offensive rebounds into 12 points.
Notre Dame had 19 assists, right on its NCAA leading average per game. The 19 assists came on just 26 Irish field goals, a remarkable 73% assist rate.
The Irish had just 8 turnovers for the game, and no player had more than 2.
Notre Dame had just 7 points from its bench. The USF bench scored only 2 points.
The Notre Dame victory secured a tie for second place in the Big East. Because it lost to Louisville last week, ND will be the #3 seed in the conference tournament.
Notre Dame will play the winner of the game between #6 Marquette and #11 TBD on Thursday, March 13th at 9:00PM EDT. Team captain Rob Kurz said, "We know it's going to be a tough road to get to the championship game, but we feel like we're as good as any team in the league, and we're going to fight and leave it all on the floor."
The Notre Dame Sports Information Department contributed to this report.