Same Old Song

The Irish squandered early opportunities then were outclassed late in a 90-72 loss at No. 3 Villanova.

Notre Dame met a familiar second-half fate in Philadelphia Wednesday night as the inconsistent Irish wilted in the final 20 minutes, falling to No. 3 Villanova 90-72 at the Wachovia Center.

The Irish, winners in just two of their last 11 road contests in conference play, hung tight in the first half as the teams traded offensive blows. The visitors received a balanced offensive effort early with four Irish starters scoring between seven and 16 points at the break.

Villanova led by as many as eight late in the first, 36-28, but Irish forward Luke Harangody scored nine of the game's next 21 points as part of a 14-7 Irish run to trim the deficit before the buzzer.

Villanova aided Notre Dame's cause, putting the Irish in the bonus at the 11:34 mark of the first half, but the Irish could not take advantage, missing seven of 19 free throw attempts, and trailed 41-40 at intermission.

The Wildcats were the aggressor early in the second stanza, beginning with a 9-4 run in the first five minutes and a 25-16 edge to take a 10-point lead, 66-56, on a Taylor King 3-point bucket at the 9:00 minute mark.

Though the Irish continually threatened for the game's first 32 minutes, the already thin rotation took an early second half hit when guard Ben Hansbrough was saddled with his fourth foul just a minute after the halftime buzzer. The senior returned with the Irish trailing again by eight as the momentum had clearly swung in favor of the deeper, suddenly focused Wildcats. But Hansbrough fouled out with an ill-advised foray deep into the lane (and as the result of a suspect charging call) with just under 13 minutes to play.

The hosts finished the contest with a methodical 20-12 run for their 19th victory in 20 contests this season. At 8-0 in conference play, the Wildcats are the lone remaining Big East unbeaten.

Harangody led the Irish with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but did not score a second-half point until more than 12 minutes had passed, attempting just two shots prior to his first bucket with 7:25 remaining in the contest.

Junior forward Tim Abromaitis chipped in 16 points, including an 8 for 10 effort from the charity stripe. The nation's No. 1 three point marksman split his first two offerings but missed seven straight en route to a 2 for 9 finish from beyond the arc. Junior power forward Tyrone Nash added 12 points and 6 boards in defeat.

The Wildcats guard tandem of Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher led Villanova with 17 points apiece while big man Antonio Pena added 14 points and 9 rebounds, collecting 10 and 6 respectively in the decisive second half.

Notre Dame was again bested by an opponents' bench as the unusually deep Wildcats out-rebounded ND's three-man bench effort by a 12-3 margin and easily outscored the visitors with a 24-10 advantage from its relief troops.

The Irish have now missed 21 of their last 49 free throw attempts in back-to-back road losses (Cincinnati) and missed 28 of 40 3-point shots in that span.

Notre Dame (15-6, 4-4 in conference) will travel back east for a Saturday matchup in Piscataway vs. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are winless in seven Big East games this season.

Note: IrishEyes will publish its player-by-player recap of the contest Thursday morning.


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