Notre Dame's 2008-09 season is over.
The most anticipated Notre Dame basketball season in recent memory ended on Tuesday night with a 67-59 loss to Penn State in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Much like the season as a whole, the Irish came in with high expectations, but by the midway mark they were staring at long climb. And just like the end of the regular season, Notre Dame came back to make it interesting, but again, the Irish had put themselves in a situation too difficult to get out of.
Notre Dame finishes the season 21-15 and the contest marks the end of Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers, Zach Hillesland and Luke Zeller's Irish careers. Junior Luke Harangody has not decided yet if he will come back for his senior year or make himself eligible for the NBA Draft.
The Nittany Lions (26-11) will face No. 3 Baylor, who defeated San Diego State 76-62 in the first game of the night, in the NIT Championship on Thursday night.
Notre Dame trailed by as many as 19 in the second half, but trailed by just four with four minutes to play.
Harangody struggled early, but he nailed a three-pointer and a pair of free throws to pull the Irish to within four, 51-47, with 4:14 to play. But while Penn State relied upon guard Talor Battle in the first half, the Nittany Lions had too much inside play from Jamelle Cornley in the second half.
Cornley had a pair of buckets inside and Penn State took a 58-50 lead with 1:27 to go. Tory Jackson missed the front end of a one-on-one on Notre Dame's next possession and a pair of free throws from Cornley pushed the Penn State lead back into double-digits to clinch the game.
Harangody led the Irish with 17 points, 13 in the second half, and 10 rebounds. No other Notre Dame player reach double-figures as Jackson and McAlarney put in nine apiece and Zeller and Jonathan Peoples each had eight off the bench.
Battle had 17 for Penn State, Andrew Jones had 16 points and 15 rebounds while Cornley finished with 15 points.
Jones opened the second half with a dunk before Harangody scored four straight to cut the lead to 11. But Penn State scored six straight, four from Cornley and two from Battle, to take a 39-22 advantage with 16:23 to play.
The Irish responded with five straight points, but the Nittany Lions came back with a 10-3 run to push the lead to 49-30 with nine minutes to go.
Ayers and McAlarney drained three-pointers as the Irish scored 10 points in the next two minutes to make the score 49-40 with 6:30 left. Harangody extended the run to 12-0 with a pair of free throws before a Stanley Pringle jumper on the other end stopped it.
Harangody and McAlarney got some good looks in the first half, but were unable to convert and Penn State took advantage and grabbed a commanding lead in the first half.
Notre Dame missed nine of its first 10 field goal attempts which allowed the Nittany Lions to jump out to an 11-2 lead five minutes into the game.
The Irish went on to miss 21 of their first 25 attempts and Harangody was off on his first seven as Penn State took a 20-8 lead 13 minutes in.
Harangody finally got in the scorer's book on a coast-to-coast drive with 5:19 to go in the half, but Battle responded with a three-point play to increase the Penn State lead to 13. Battle led Penn State with 12 of its first 23 points. Jones scored two inside buckets and Battle scored on a break to increase the Penn State lead to 29-10 three minutes before the half.
Zeller drained a three to stop a 9-0 run by Penn State and the Irish ended the half with a three-pointer by Peoples and a Harangody reverse to make the score 31-18 at the half.
Harangody finished the half with just four points, missing eight of his 10 field goal attempts. McAlarney was equally ineffective, converting just one of seven shots and finishing the half with just two points.
Ayers and Hillesland did not score in the first half as Zeller and Peoples led Notre Dame with five points apiece off the bench.
Battle ended the first half with 14 points while Jones had six points and five rebounds and Pringle four points and seven boards.
While Notre Dame made just eight of its 35 first-half field goals (22.8%), the Nittany Lions were 14-29 (48.3%). Both teams made two of their eight three-pointers in the first 20 minutes. Notre Dame did not shoot a free throw in the first half.