Nov. 25, 2008
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) – Luke Harangody had done everything a bruising power forward is supposed to do. He scored 29 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and even threw in a banked 40-footer as the shot clock expired.
But he had to wait to make sure his two missed free throws in the final seconds didn’t cost No. 8 Notre Dame a win over No. 6 Texas. They didn’t, barely.
After Harangody’s second miss with 3.5 seconds to play, Texas’ A.J. Abrams let fly with a shot from just beyond halfcourt that bounced off the front of the rim and the Fighting Irish had an 81-80 victory in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
“I’m not the kind of player to look back and say I missed two free throws,” Harangody said. “We got the win.”
This was the first matchup of Top Ten teams this season and there will be another Wednesday night as the Fighting Irish (4-0) advanced to the championship game against the winner of the semifinal between No. 1 North Carolina and Oregon. The loser of that game will play the Longhorns (3-1) for third place.
The teams combined for 49 3-point attempts and Notre Dame won that battle as well, hitting 11 from beyond the arc while the Longhorns made eight.”We’re happy we’re playing for the championship, that’s why we came here and we don’t care who it would be against,” said Notre Dame’s Kyle McAlarney, who had five 3s and 19 points.
“McAlarney doesn’t need a whole lot of space,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “We can survive teams making 11 3s against us it just seemed that every time we had a chance down the stretch they would get a big rebound, make a big play.”
Abrams had 23 points and Justin Mason had 16 points and seven assists for the Longhorns, while Damion James added 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“We’re disappointed with the loss but it was to a seasoned, experienced team,” Barnes said. “I thought we did some good things and I wasn’t surprised we fought back.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey thought having three seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup was the difference for his team.
“We are older and have been together as long as any team,” he said. “I told them before the game, at halftime and at every timeout that we’re more experienced and that’s the way we played. I think that translates into maturity and experience and that’s why we were able to handle the way they came at us down the stretch.”
Both teams came in having opened the season with impressive defense but neither had played a team as good as the other one they saw in the semifinals.
Notre Dame came in allowing 54 points per game and Texas was even better at 46.3. Those numbers were almost gone by halftime as the Fighting Irish took a 43-40 lead.
Notre Dame took the lead for good at 47-45 on a drive by Harangody with 17:29 left but the Longhorns were always within striking distance, closing within 75-71 on a basket by Varez Ward with 1:40 left. Harangody made four free throws to make it an eight-point lead but the Longhorns got back within four twice in the final 32 seconds on 3s by Abrams and then made it 81-80 with 4.3 seconds left on a 3 by Justin Mason.
McAlarney, Notre Dame’s 3-point specialist, made five of his first six and that opened things up inside for Harangody.
“I missed shots after my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball,” Abrams said. “I just didn’t make them.”Abrams, who was 9-for-18 from 3s coming in, had a tough go from beyond the arc, missing eight of his first 10 from there, although he did make the big shots down the stretch and finished 5-of-17.
But he almost made the big one at the end.
“I did think it was going to go, but you never know when you have to take it from that far,” he said.
But the 3-pointer of the game belonged to Harangody, who was 1-for-3 from beyond the arc coming in. There was a scramble for the ball far from the basket and the shot clock was winding down. Harangody grabbed the ball and let fly from 40 feet with the ball banking in as the buzzer sounded to give Notre Dame a 66-60 lead with 7:47 to go.
“I called that,” Harangody said.
Barnes said the two long 3s showed the difference in who’s taking them.
“A.J. takes it and a guard gets it to the rim softly,” he said, “the big fella almost broke the backboard.”
Tory Jackson added 16 points and seven assists.
Notre Dame beat Indiana 88-50 in the opening round while Texas advanced with a 68-50 win over Saint Joseph’s.
This was second meeting between these schools at this tournament as Texas beat Notre Dame 89-72 for fifth place in 1993.