Knockout Blow

After chipping away late in the second half, Notre Dame completely unravels late as previously winless Rutgers upsets the Irish, 74-73 in Piscataway.

Hamadie Ndiaye's fifth blocked shot of the second half coincided with Luke Harangody's 17th miss as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-11) earned their first conference win of the season with a 74 to 73 victory over the visiting Irish.

Ndiaye added to his late-game heroics with a hustle rebound off a missed Rutgers free throw with 31 seconds remaining. The possession added a crucial point to the Scarlet Knight's three-point advantage but with 22 seconds remaining , and trailing by a negotiable four points, Notre Dame junior forward Tim Abromaitis' telegraphed pass was stolen by James Beattie in the backcourt. The freshman point guard knocked down one of two to put the Irish in scramble mode with 19 seconds to play.

With the visitors trailing 72-67 following Beattie's free throws, Ndiaye added a final insult with an emphatic rejection of a Harangody driving layup. Though the ensuing Rutgers rebound and two free throws effectively ended the contest, senior guard Ben Hansbrough drilled two 3-point shots in a six second span to cut the margin to one at the final buzzer.

Hansbrough, who nailed the second of his two triples as the buzzer sounded, put forth a valiant attempt to bait a foul call from the nearest official, but the ploy did not fool the Big East crew and the home team celebrated its first conference conquest of the season.

(For reasons known only to him and perhaps his head coach, Fred Hill, Ndiaye came close to hitting the Irish shooter on his buzzer shot with 0:0.8 remaining and a four-point lead).

Notre Dame trailed by as many as 10 in the first half, 21-11; rallied to lead 35-28 with just over two minutes to play before the break, and then fell behind quickly in the second stanza, as the much hungrier Scarlet Knights attacked the visitor's shoddy, uncommitted defense with purpose, embarking on an 11 to 4 run to take an five point lead with 16 minutes remaining.

Rutgers controlled the next quarter of the contest, eventually extending its lead to 62-53 before the desperate Irish began chipping into the deficit. Back-to-back three point shots by Harangody and junior forward Tim Abromaitis cut the Scarlet Knight's lead to 65-63 with 3:05 remaining, but Notre Dame's only chance to tie the score was snuffed out by Ndiaye's aforementioned fifth blocked shot.

Failure to secure late defensive rebounds, careless mistakes, and timidity near the hoop ultimately doomed the Irish and gave the fired up hosts their first Big East win of the 2010 campaign.

Notre Dame (4-5) greatly damaged its NCAA Tournament hopes with the loss as the Irish, winners of just two of their last 14 road contests, still must visit high-scoring Seton Hall, a solid Louisville squad, No. 11 Georgetown and dangerous Marquette, while No. 17 Pittsburgh and No. 19 Connecticut await in home tilts.

Sophomore guard Mike Rosario led all scorers with 24 points. Jonathan Mitchell and Dane Miller both added 12 for the Scarlet Knights while the destructive Ndiaye chipped in with 10 points and 5 rebounds to augment his dominant shot-blocking performance.

Harangody led the Irish with 19 points and seven rebounds though he missed 18 shots in the process. The senior All American candidate has somehow missed 50 of 68 shots attempted vs. Ndiaye and Rutgers over a three game span dating back to late February of 2009.

The nearly heroic Hansbrough scored 18 while Abromaitis chipped in 17 to go with 10 boards and Tory Jackson added 11 before fouling out as a result of Abromaitis' errant, game-sealing turnover.

Head coach Mike Brey employed the services of seven players as Jonathan Peoples scored the bench's only two points in 16 minutes of action. (Freshman Joey Brooks also found three minutes of floor time).

Losers in three of their last four, Notre Dame (15-7) must regroup before entertaining Cincinnati at the Purcell Pavilion Thursday night. The Bearcats beat the Irish, 60-58 on a buzzer tip-in on January 16.


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