March 10, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) – With a healthy Luke Harangody back in top form, Notre Dame stopped Seton Hall in its run-and-gun tracks to take another big step toward the NCAA tournament.
Harangody had 20 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and the Fighting Irish shut down Seton Hall’s high-octane offense for a 68-56 victory in the second round of the Big East tournament Wednesday night.
“The microwave was ready to go tonight,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said about the instant offense Harangody provided as a reserve. “It was not anything anybody in this room hasn’t seen.”
Tory Jackson added 13 points and six assists for the Fighting Irish (22-10) in a game with significant NCAA implications. Notre Dame, riding a five-game winning streak at just the right time, plays second-seeded and No. 16 Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals Thursday night.
The seventh-seeded Irish started their surge with 68-53 victory over then-No. 12 Pittsburgh on Feb. 24.
Notre Dame improved to 6-14 in the Big East tournament and ended a three-game winning streak for No. 10 seed Seton Hall (19-12), which nearly blew a 29-point second-half lead before holding off Providence 109-106 Tuesday night.
Unable to improve their resume this week, the Pirates must wait until Sunday to find out if they’ve done enough to sneak into the NCAAs.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, probably solidified its spot.
“There’s no doubt we can beat somebody if we go to the NCAA tournament. No doubt. And especially with some rest,” Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “I think we should be on the board. I think all this talk about the bubble has burst and now we’re out and we’re done and we lost and that’s it and it’s over, I don’t think people know what they’re talking about. I don’t think they have a clue. I think they listen to what everybody else says and they repeat what they hear.”
Harangody, who entered as the nation’s second-leading scorer at 23.3 points per game, was injured in a 90-87 loss at Seton Hall on Feb. 11. The senior forward missed five games with a badly bruised right knee and the Irish lost the first two by a combined three points before reeling off three straight surprising wins without him.
He had five points and two rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench Saturday in Notre Dame’s 63-60 overtime win at Marquette, but looked much more like himself in this one.
“The last couple of days of practice have been great for me, just to get back in the flow. Kind of get my conditioning back up to where it has been,” Harangody said. “I feel right now that I started to get a little bit of swagger I had before the injury, a little more of the confidence. I feel great with the guys out there.”
Harangody ran the floor well for fast-break dunks and scored several easy baskets down low. After entering 3:15 into the game, he finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in 15 first-half minutes as Notre Dame turned an 11-2 deficit into a 28-21 lead at the break.
“I think he is back in his rhythm at a very key time,” Brey said.
With about 4:45 left in the half, Jackson dived toward the sideline by press row and slapped a loose ball to a streaking Harangody, who scored and drew a foul on the play. Fired up by his own hustle, Jackson screamed in delight.
The Irish scored the first seven points of the second half, five by Jackson, and never let up. With 11:37 to go, Ben Hansbrough looked directly at his defender, Jordan Theodore, and said, “C’mon, baby” before driving right by for a layup that gave Notre Dame its largest lead, 44-28.
“It was our tempo,” Brey said.
Led by Harangody, selected to the all-Big East first team for the third consecutive year, Notre Dame’s bench outscored Seton Hall’s reserves 24-3.
Jeremy Hazell had 15 points for the Pirates, who needed garbage-time baskets at the end to barely surpass the 55 points they scored in the first half Tuesday night.
Seton Hall went 2 for 16 from 3-point range and fell 25 points below its season average of 81.3 per game, which ranked fourth in the Big East.
“Not an excuse, certainly, but I thought this was the most tired I’ve seen our team the entire year,” Gonzalez said. “We just didn’t have our legs. It shows how important the bye is and how important the regular season is.”