Irish Hear Tough Talk

A couple of Connecticut players have made comments that have provided Notre Dame with extra motivation for Saturday's game with the Huskies at the Joyce Center. UConn center Hasheem Thabeet questioned Luke Harangody's toughness while Jeff Adrien can't wait to break the Notre Dame home win streak.

The quote hangs in Luke Harangody's locker as a constant reminder that even a Big East Player of the Year award will not bring him the respect that he believes he deserves.

"I played Luke Harangody and he was not tough."

That is what Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet told ESPN The Magazine in the November issue that featured the 7-foot-3 center on the cover.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey did not waste any time using the quote to motivate his big guy.

"I used that in the weight room the week after it came out," said Brey.

Thabeet later said that the comment was meant in jest and sent Brey and Harangody notes of apology.

"I actually got a letter from Thabeet apologizing and I e-mailed him back and I understand how guys can be maybe led astray sometimes with questioning," said Brey. "I don't know if he really meant to say it, he's kind of a playful kid. I don't think there's a lot there.

"Luke Harangody is ready, he's ready to compete whether it's against Hasheem Thabeet or Tim Andree in practice everyday. I don't sense there's any issues there. I think it's probably one of those things where the kid probably just got led astray."

But the quote remains in Harangody's locker even if he does not want to talk much about it.

"It's still there," said Harangody. "People are trying to get me to say some things, but as I said before, some things are taken out of context. Did he mean it? Maybe he did. It gives me a little bit of motivation, but am I going to take it that seriously? No."

For the record, Harangody more than held his own in both games against the Huskies and Thabeet last year. Ironically, both guys played better in the games that their teams lost.

Thabeet tied a Connecticut record with 10 blocks and held Harangody to 14 points on 5 of 23 shooting in the Irish's 73-67 home win. Harangody had a monster outing in Notre Dame's 84-78 loss to UConn at Gampel Pavilion, scoring 32 points and pulling down 16 rebounds while Thabeet finished with just four points and 10 boards.

Harangody will study film from both games in preparation for Saturday.

"Coach gave me tape of the game that I struggled and tape of when we went up there and I had a good performance," said Harangody. "I'm going to go break it down and see what I did wrong and see what I did right. I think pulling him away from the basket early on and setting ball screens, just kind of getting him out of his rhythm kind of threw him off, as where in the first game when I just tried to keep bullying him and going at him, that obviously wasn't working."

Despite being named Player of the Year in one of the nation's power conferences and leading the league in scoring this season, Harangody still hears his doubters.

"I love that. I think that's what's made me a great player to this day," he said. "Before every game I'm thinking about who's doubting me. Who's doubting me this week? The media, announcers, whatever, that's what motivates me to go out there on the court and prove everyone wrong."

Brey was unusually animated earlier in the month about the fact that Harangody is not always mentioned as one of the top candidates for National Player of the Year. Brey later said that he does think that Harangody gets credit from the majority of analysts, but the junior forward still uses it as motivation.

"Me and Coach have talked about that before and we believe my name should be in that category," said Harangody. "Certainly there's a lot of other players that should be in that category too, but it motivates me when people talk me down when it comes to those things."

Thabeet was not the only Husky to catch the attention of the Irish with his mouth. Following UConn's win over Seton Hall last weekend Jeff Adrien talked about beating Villanova and Notre Dame.

Adrien called the game against Villanova, which the Huskies won last night 89-83, ‘an opportunity to get payback for Villanova. You know they beat us the last two years, and we're excited for it.'

But he sounded more confident when talking about coming to South Bend.

"It's going to feel good to break (Notre Dame's) home winning streak," he said.

Adrien did backtrack a bit by adding, "It's a tough place to play, but we can do it. We almost did it last year."

That does not matter to Kyle McAlarney though, who said he was not surprised to hear the comments.

"Not surprising at all, not with the UConn team," he said. "It's amazing how people still think after all the wins we have here that they could just say something like that. But that's the nature of this game and that's the way it goes and it's our job to disprove that."

McAlarney does not take any of the trash talk personally.

"I feel like that's something that they do to pump themselves up and try and get into our heads a little bit. But we really don't talk about that too much, we keep it within ourselves, within the locker room," he said. "It's our job to keep everybody on the same page and not have any personal vendettas against someone on the other team because that's when we get out of character and really we need everybody to stay focused.

"[Harangody has] done a good job of that, of just kind of reflecting all of the attention of the Thabeet comment, but he's definitely going to come out with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder because of that."

When asked if another Big East Player of the Year award would be owed in part to Thabeet's comments, Harangody joked, "In my speech maybe I'll have to [thank him]." Top Stories