Ryan Ayers' steal and dunk with 2.1 seconds left gave Notre Dame a narrow 90-88 victory over Ireland. With the game tied 88-88, Ayers took the ball away from Ireland's Donnie McGrath and had a clear path to the hoop for the winning basket. Ireland never got a chance to get a shot off on its final possession as Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney forced a jump ball and the Fighting Irish took over with .5 seconds left.
"This was a great test tonight. It was a truly special atmosphere and felt like a Big East road game at the end. We didn't play as well as we did in out previous three outings, but we showed our character and battled through some tough stretches in the game where things may not have been going our way," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. "With each game we play, we are finding out what our identity is and tonight was a good test for us. Ireland came out ready to play and that created such a great setting for a great basketball game."
McAlarney led all scorers with 25 points, while Ayers' final bucket gave him 24 on the night. McAlarney hit seven three-pointers while Ayers knocked down four. Luke Harangody added 18 to round out the Fighting Irish's double-digit scorers.
McGrath, who was a Providence College standout from 2002-2006, scored 18 of his 23 in the second half to lead the hosts. Ireland was the first team to hold Notre Dame to fewer than 100 points on their trip thus far.
The game was tight throughout and Notre Dame could never seem to pull away, Ireland came right back. Ireland led 12-4 in the first quarter, but the Fighting Irish grabbed a 23-19 advantage after the first quarter and a 41-40 lead at the end of the first half.
The Fighting Irish stretched their lead to 46-40 at the start of the second half, but were then held scoreless for the next five minutes. Notre Dame finished the quarter strong though and brought a 71-62 lead into the final quarter.
Conor Grace and McGrath scored back-to-back baskets to pull Ireland to within two, 87-85, with under two minutes to play.
Notre Dame's Zach Hillesland made one of two free throws with just over a minute to play to give the Irish an 88-85 lead, but Grace drilled a three-pointer to tie it 88-88 with 41 seconds to play. Ireland was able to stop Notre Dame on its following possession, but Ayers' steal and score gave the Fighting Irish the win.
Notre Dame plays Poland, who defeated Iceland 84-65, on Friday in the second of three games in Dublin.