Irish Squeak By Knights

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights drove the #18/#20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish to the brink of defeat before losing a hard fought 71-68 decision on Sunday afternoon.

The Notre Dame faithful…, boisterous, smug and confident, brought a rather large contingent to today’s game. They seemed quite certain in their belief that the Irish would provide them with an easy victory. They filled a variety of sections within the arena, and although outnumbered about 5-1, they made their presence known during the warm-ups, the shoot around and the pregame introductions. After all, Notre Dame was one of the finest shooting teams in the land, while Rutgers has struggled with scoring throughout the year. Shortly after the opening tip-off they became a non factor.

Rutgers came to play and confused Notre Dame with hard, relentless defense. They managed to upset the offensive flow of the Irish, with Byron Joynes frustrating Irish star Luke Harangody all afternoon by denying him his easy shots. With so many smooth and dangerous long range shooters garnering the attention, the easy shot IS the hallmark of the tough Irish power forward. The Scarlet guards and forwards responded to the Irish spread offense with continual “in your face” pressure, forcing the Irish to work hard for every shot they took.

“We played a heck of a game”, Rutgers coach Fred Hill said. “We’ve gotten better. We have young guys out there. It’s very difficult to win with freshmen, and our guys are growing up. The freshman got better today, Earl Pettis gave us good minutes, Justin Sofman gave us a couple of good minutes. Byron Joynes played a great game. They played hard.” Without question or comment, freshmen Corey Chandler and Mike Coburn continue to rise to stardom as Big East players.

Rutgers hung tough for the initial 10 minutes of the first half with 2 lead changes and 3 ties occurring during this span. Notre Dame managed to build a 10 point lead over the next four minutes, not due to superior play, but because Rutgers couldn’t buy a shot at an open bar. The Irish seemed content while the Knights never backed off. Rutgers hustled back to within 4 points at the 3:44 mark following back to back 3 pointers by Pettis and Sofman . Notre Dame still worked the ball well with their inside out offense and increased their lead back to 6 at 40-34. With a mere :02 left in the half, Irish guard Tory Jackson put up a twisting, turning, off balance shot that caught the bottom of the basket. The Notre Dame contingent cheered their blue and gold as they ran off the court with a comfortable 8 point lead. After all, they were easily on pace to reach their season average of eighty points per game.

Rutgers came out of the locker and reasserted themselves for the second half. Hamady hit for 2 while Anthony Farmer hit for 3 bringing the Knights to within 3 points at 39-42. The Irish tried to take over until Rutgers went on a 11 -1 run over a 3 minute span giving the Scarlet the lead at 50-48. A little over 13 minutes remained and the RAC had come to life. The game rocked back and forth with the Irish managing to tie the game twice. With 7:37 left, Notre Dame managed to create a quick eight point lead with great shots from Luke Harangody, Rob Kurz and Kyle McAlarney. During this stretch a trio of Notre Dame players mauled Byron Joynes on his way for a layup and slammed the warhorse to the floor. Following a few anxious moments, Joynes got to his feet but headed to the trainer’s room to have his elbow examined. Freshman Mike Coburn made both free throws for Byron, bringing the game to within 59-65 with 4:48 to go. Rutgers was determined to make a run and ran off a quick 5-2 run highlighted by a breakaway by Mike Coburn and a slam dunk by JR Inman to bring the Scarlet to within one point at 66-67 with 1:08 left on the clock. Rob Kurz made a huge shot for the Irish at :42 seconds giving them a 3 point lead, but Anthony Farmer was fouled on the ensuing drive by Luke Harangody and calmly followed through with two free throws, keeping the score within 1 at 68-69 with :30 seconds to go. Rutgers missed the trap set up on the next ND inbound and a full 15 seconds had expired before Rutgers could manage to foul the right guy. Notre Dame inbounded the ball to Harangody who was immediately fouled. He missed the front end of his one and one attempt. Three Rutgers players scrambled unopposed for the rebound and unfortunately they knocked the ball out of bounds off the fingertips of Earl Pettis and Byron Joynes. The Irish mad bomber Kyle McAlarney took the inbound, was immediately fouled and easily sunk both ends of his one on one. The Irish held a 71-68 lead with just 9.9 seconds left. The inbound pass went to Corey Chandler who ran the court, trying a last moment three point attempt coming off a screen to tie the game that just missed the mark….. but Rutgers played a great game.

Postgame:

Rutgers scoring leader was Anthony Farmer with 16 points, 4 assists and a steal. Anthony went 3-6 from long range.

Farmer was followed by JR Inman with 14 points, 2 blocked shots and 6 rebounds.

Byron Joynes with some help from Hamady N’Diaye ate Luke Harangody for lunch and took him to school. They held him to a mere 10 points, half of his point per game average this season.

Earl Pettis played for 29 minutes scoring 7 points by making 2-6 from the field and 1 for 2 with shots from the cheap seats. He played tremendous defense, showed outstanding quickness and hands, pulled down 7 rebounds, had 2 assists and a blocked shot.

Attendance: 7,431


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