March 25, 2009
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)–Luke Harangody had 30 points and 11 rebounds and Notre Dame hit 12 3-pointers to end a 10-game losing streak to Kentucky, beating the Wildcats 77-67 Wednesday night to advance to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals.
Jodie Meeks scored 18 of his 21 points in the final 12:18 as the Wildcats (22-14) used a 17-5 run to cut the lead to 67-62 on a slam dunk by Perry Stevenson with 2:42 left. But the Irish were 8-of-8 from the free-throw line over the final 1:29 to end the game on a 10-5 run to hang on.
Kyle McAlarney added 15 points and Ryan Ayers, who held Meeks to one basket until the Irish were up by 15, added 14 points on 4-of-7 3-pointers for Notre Dame (21-14).
Patrick Patterson added 18 points for the Wildcats.
The Irish will face Penn State (25-11) Tuesday night in New York.
A large number of Kentucky fans, including its pep band, made the trip to South Bend, which is about 325 miles from Lexington. When Meeks hit a pair of 3-pointers midway through the second half to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 52-41, the Kentucky fans started chanting “Go Big Blue.”
They were quickly drowned out by Notre Dame fans chanting: “Let’s go Irish.”
The Irish managed to push their home court record to 15-3. It was Notre Dame’s first win over the Wildcats since a victory in 1990 during Rick Pitino’s first year as Kentucky coach.
In that game the Irish needed to come back from a seven-point halftime deficit. On Wednesday, the Irish led throughout.
Notre Dame led 34-26 at the half. The Irish quckly stretched the lead to 40-28 as Ayers and Harangody started the second half by hitting a pair of 3s. Moments later, back-to-back baskets by Harangody gave the Irish a 48-33 lead.
The Irish took their biggest lead at 62-45 when Tory Jackson, who added 10 points, scored on his own rebound with 8:02 left.
Notre Dame will be making its first trip to New York for the NIT final four since losing to Wake Forest in the 2000 championship game. Kentucky fell to 5-2 at the Joyce Center. The Wildcats hold a 41-18 advantage in the series.