This dunk by Ryan Ayers with 2.1 seconds remaining lifted Notre Dame to a 90-88 win over Ireland in the opening game of the Emerald Hoops International Series on Thursday night in Dublin, Ireland. <i>(photo by Tish Brey)</i>

Notre Dame Edges Ireland, 90-88 In Opener Of Emerald Hoops International Series

Aug. 21, 2008

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DUBLIN, Ireland – Kyle McAlarney and Ryan Ayers combined for 49 of Notre Dame’s 90 points to lead the Irish to a 90-88 victory over Ireland in its opening contest of the Emerald Hoops International Basketball Series at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin.

Ayers, who netted 13 points in the second half, scored the game-winning basket with 2.1 seconds to play in the contest as he stole the ball from Ireland’s Donnie McGrath just above the free-throw line at the opponent’s end of the floor and went uncontested for a slam dunk.

Ireland had a chance to tie or win the game with a three-pointer, but a good defensive play by McAlarney forced a jump ball and Notre Dame regained possession with 0.5 seconds remaining in the game.

McAlarney was once again dangerous from three-point range as he connected on seven three-pointers in the contest and was named the Molten MVP of the Game. Ayers finished with four three-pointers in the contest.

Luke Harangody was the only other Irish player in double figures as he finished with 18 points.

McGrath, a former standout at Providence College, led Ireland with 23 points, including 18 in the second half as he brought the home team back from a double-digit deficit in the second half.

Ireland played with determination from the start of the contest and early on established control and tempo of the game as they jumped out to an early eight-point advantage (12-4) in the first quarter. For the first time in four games, Notre Dame trailed after the first quarter 23-19, but was able to grab a 41-40 advantage on the break.

Notre Dame scored the first five points of the second half and clearly had the momentum with a strong outside shooting performance, but the Irish were held scoreless for five minutes and did not score a point until Tory Jackson’s basket with 4:02 in the third quarter.

Despite the five-minute scoring drought, Notre Dame finished with 71 points by the end of the third quarter and had opened up a 71-62 advantage heading into the final 10-minute stanza.

Ireland outscored the Irish 26-19 in the final 10 minutes of the contest. With Notre Dame leading 87-81 with 2:35 remaining following Harangody’s three-point play, Conor Grace, who scored eight points in the second half, and McGrath converting consecutive baskets that pulled the Ireland to within 87-85.

Zach Hillesland made the second of two free throws with 27 seconds remaining to give the Irish an 88-86 lead, but Grace’s three-pointer tied the game with 41 seconds remaining before Ayers’ heroics.

Notre Dame’s 90 points were the fewest scored by the Irish after previously topping the 100-point mark in the each of the first three games.

Notre Dame meets Poland on Friday night (Aug. 22) in the second of three games in this series. Earlier in the evening, Poland defeated Iceland 84-65.

“This was a great test tonight,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “It was a truly special atmosphere and felt like a BIG EAST road game at the end. We didn’t play as well as we did in out previous three outings, but we showed our character and battled through some tough stretches in the game where things may not have been going our way.

“With each game we play, we are finding out what our identity is and tonight was a good test for us. Ireland came out ready to play and that created such a great setting for a great basketball game.”

— ND —