UND.com is blogging from the BIG EAST Men’s Basketball Championship, starting on Sunday, March 8. Please check back for frequent updates (posts will be in reverse chronological order) on the men’s basketball team’s visit to New York City and the legendary Madison Square Garden.
Wednesday, March 11 – 9:40 p.m. Harangody finishes on a high note, with 23 of his 27 in the second half. McAlarney stands in a back hallway, surrounded by media. It’s a tougher-than-hoped-for ending to the Irish hopes for spending the week in New York. Now, the Irish can only wait until Sunday to see where they play next. Wednesday, March 11 – 9:08 p.m. McAlarney fouls out with 43.7 left and has a chat with Mike Brey before taking a seat. The Irish play a game second half — but it’s not enough. 74-62 West Virginia. Wednesday, March 11 – 8:53 p.m. Harangody’s 26th and 27th points make it to 66-59. Wednesday, March 11 – 8:47 p.m. At the final media timeout it’s 66-57 – closest the Irish have been for a long while (actually since it was 9-2). Wednesday, March 11 – 8:42 p.m. Harangody is making everything and the margin is cut to 10 at 65-55. Wednesday, March 11 – 8:35 p.m. Harangody manages seven quick points, including a three – and it’s 59-46, prompting another Huggins timeout. Wednesday, March 11 – 8:28 p.m. For now, the Mountaineers have stemmed the tide and fought back to make it 54-36 for West Virginia at the second media timeout–equaling the halftime margin.
Luke Harangody takes a tumble at the Irish end, and Mike Brey earns a technical foul. Ruoff’s free throws make it 56-36.
Wednesday, March 11 – 8:15 p.m. At the first media timeout, it’s 41-30 for West Virginia. Notre Dame needed 20 minutes to score 18 points – and now has managed 12 points in 4:03 of the second half. Wednesday, March 11 – 8:10 p.m. The Irish apply a little pressure, start to scramble things a bit on the court and hit a few shots – and suddenly it’s 39-27, forcing Bob Huggins to call a timeout at 17:22. Wednesday, March 11 – 8:05 p.m. The “enhanced scoring” on the halftime stat sheet says Notre Dame, in the first half, had no fast break points, no points off turnovers, no second chance points, no bench points, and attempted only a pair of free throws by McAlarney. Wednesday, March 11 – 7:46 p.m. It’s 36-18 for West Virginia at the half.
During the break, Tranghese presents the BIG EAST regular-season championship trophy to Louisville coach Rick Pitino and his players.
Notre Dame hits seven of 27 shots – one of seven by Tory Jackson, two of seven by McAlarney. West Virginia hits only 35 percent, but is seven of 14 on threes. The Irish find themselves outrebounded 31-16, including a 13-2 edge for West Virginia in offensive rebounds.
Wednesday, March 11 – 7:38 p.m. West Virginia can’t seem to miss, it’s 31-11 and Mike Brey calls a 30-second timeout. Wednesday, March 11 – 7:32 p.m. Tough matchup for the 6-0 Kyle McAlarney when he’s guarded by 6-6 Alex Ruoff, but his hoop makes it 27-11 under six minutes. Wednesday, March 11 – 7:27 p.m. It’s raining threes for West Virginia, and the Irish are trying to pry the lid off the rim. It’s 23-6 for the Mountaineers at the 7:53 stop. Wednesday, March 11 – 7:18 p.m. Tory Jackson finally finds the range for only the second made field goal for Notre Dame, inside the 12-minute mark. A West Virginia student outshoots a Notre Dame student 9-4 in free throws during a timeout. It’s 17-5 West Virginia. Wednesday, March 11 – 7:14 p.m. Alex Ruoff hits a three for the Mountaineers — and Mike Brey calls a timeout at 12-2 at the 13:52 mark. Ty Nash and Luke Zeller take the floor for Notre Dame, and Jon Peoples quickly follows. Wednesday, March 11 – 7:08 p.m. At 16:25, Luke Harangody gets the first Irish hoop and it’s 7-2 for West Virginia. Wednesday, March 11 – 7:00 p.m. The West Virginia band plays the National Anthem – and we’re off. As the lower seed, the Irish are in blue tonight. Wednesday, March 11 – 6:35 p.m. The Irish take the floor for warm-ups and the Notre Dame band belts out the “Victory March.” There seems to be a bit more buzz in the arena than last night at this time. Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas, all veterans of plenty of BIG EAST action this season, are the ESPN commentators. Wednesday, March 11 – 6:20 p.m. For a half-hour or so before the start of tonight’s session, BIG EAST commissioner Mike Tranghese is available to the assembled media at MSG in something of an outgoing state of the union address. Wednesday, March 11 – 6:08 p.m. Neither DePaul nor St. John’s proved capable this afternoon of knocking off a higher seed two days in a row. Tonight, Notre Dame and Seton Hall see if they can win two nights in succession. Wednesday, March 11 – 5:30 p.m. This time the Irish are across the hallway in room #4. As you head out the locker room door, a color shot of Billy Joel meets the eye, coming off his 12 straight nights playing at MSG a few years back.
Expected to sit tonight with athletics director Jack Swarbrick are Regis Philbin and Irish football coach Charlie Weis, who is in town for a Hannah & Friends event on Thursday night.
Wednesday, March 11 – 4:45 p.m. The routine is the same as yesterday. Late breakfast (11:00 a.m.), shoot-around and game prep for an hour at The Sports Club/LA, rest and relax, mass followed by pre-game meal at 3:00 p.m., then head to the Garden at 5:10 p.m. A win tonight against West Virginia, and the Irish have a chance to duplicate it all for a third day on Thursday, with #2 seed Pittsburgh awaiting the Notre Dame-West Virginia survivor from tonight. The Irish coaches huddle watching video until midnight after the win over Rutgers – but at this stage the prep is more mental (the Irish and West Virginia met Feb. 18 in Morgantown) and it’s a matter of how long your legs hold out playing night after night. Tuesday, March 10 – 9:01 p.m. Brey wastes no time with small talk in the locker room. He and McAlarney and Nash and Jackson are out the door in a flash and beat half of the media to the interview room. Jackson gets 12 points, McAlarney 11 and Ryan Ayers 10, with Harangody finishing three of 17 from the field. The Irish lose the rebounding battle 46-38, but have only six turnovers and win despite 35 percent shooting (Rutgers ends up at 33 on 21 of 63).
“You got to get the first one to make it interesting,” says Brey. “We’ve been in survival mode since January. It’s encouraging that we could win without having to score 82. We won despite not being in a great offensive rhythm.”
Tuesday, March 10 – 8:58 p.m. Mike Brey is excited in the locker room after holding Rutgers to 50 points and getting a nice bench effort. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:55 p.m. Survive and advance. It ends 61-50 Irish. Next is #7 seed West Virginia — same time tomorrow night. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:49 p.m. The Rutgers bench pleads for a foul and gets it at :58.9. So, Nash goes to the line and makes one, makes two. 57-50. Then, after a bunch of missed shots by Rutgers, Jackson gets an open layup at the other end for 59-50 at the :30.4 mark. Meanwhile, a Rutgers player (Mike Rosario) is down in a crowd under the far basket. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:45 p.m. Jackson shrugs off a big tumble on rebound attempt and hits a big jumper to make it 55-47 Irish. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:42 p.m. Among others in attendance tonight are former Irish player Danny Miller — and Ken DiCamillo, Regis Philbin’s agent.
At the final media timeout (3:16), it’s Notre Dame 53-44.
Tuesday, March 10 – 8:37 p.m. McAlarney hits a three out of the break, then Nash follows a missed shot and it’s 53-42 for Notre Dame. And that forces Rutgers to call its own timeout. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:32 p.m. Again, the Irish aren’t sure they want to embrace prosperity. Rutgers scores eight straight, but Jackson tempers the run with a Notre Dame three. At the third media timeout (6:51 left), Notre Dame leads 48-42. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:27 p.m. Rutgers makes two straight buckets, Mike Brey calls a 30-second timeout and gets McAlarney and Harangody back on the court. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:25 p.m. Jackson feeds Ty Nash for a lay-in and Notre Dame has scored 12 straight (now 45-32). Tuesday, March 10 – 8:21 p.m. Tory Jackson makes a couple of nice moves for lay-ins and gets the Irish lead back to 10 at 42-32 at the second media timeout at 11:57 mark – with Jackson coming back after the break to go for the three-point play. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:17 p.m. Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., is a spectator at this game. He flew in from South Bend this afternoon and also will attend BIG EAST meetings in New York on Wednesday. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:08 p.m. So much for prosperity. Rutgers scores 10 of first 13 points after the break to cut it to 31-29 for the Irish, before Mike Brey calls a timeout. Hillesland gets a tip-in after the timeout, but Rutgers rebounds with a three – and it’s 33-32 for Notre Dame at the first media timeout. Tuesday, March 10 – 8:02 p.m. It’s halftime and though Garden is not full, there are far more people here than when game began.
Irish went from up only one at 18-17 at 5:48 mark to the final 28-19 halftime margin.
Tuesday, March 10 – 7:50 p.m. Halftime stat sheet is green – maybe another good sign. Sheet says Rutgers has made only eight of 32 shots (one of nine on threes), including senior starter Anthony Farmer who is zero for six. Meanwhile, Harangody is only three for 11 but many were of the tip variety. The Irish have only five turnovers (eight for Rutgers). McAlarney leads with eight points (same for Rutgers’ Hamady Ndiaye), and Harangody has seven. Harangody has seven rebounds, but Rutgers leads 23-20 in that category. Tuesday, March 10 – 7:42 p.m. It’s not a work of art, but the Irish lead 26-17 and have the ball – so Mike Brey calls a 30-second timeout at 1:18 mark to set a play. Only a turnover ensues, and Rutgers scores at other end. There’s another Notre Dame turnover, but Rutgers misses an open layup and then Kyle McAlarney is fouled on the other end at the :12.6 mark. McAlarney’s two makes on the one-and-one make it 28-19. The Irish are under the foul limit so they commit their sixth with nine seconds remaining, and Rutgers misses at the buzzer for a 28-19 Notre Dame halftime lead.
Greeting Mike Brey and other members of the Irish party as they entered the arena tonight was former Notre Dame administrator and current Georgetown athletics director Bernard Muir, whose team had just fallen to St. John’s.
Tuesday, March 10 – 7:38 p.m. At final media timeout of first half, a student in a t-shirt and a Rutgers hat tries to sing along to the FreeCreditReport.com jingle. He’s somewhat average and crowd boos him, too. Tuesday, March 10 – 7:32 p.m. More early juice from Ty Nash. He’s already come off the bench to draw two fouls in the act of shooting, plus a nice assist to Harangody for a bucket. Tuesday, March 10 – 7:25 p.m. There’s no live television for any of these Tuesday BIG EAST games, a rare occurrence at an event in which ESPN holds rights (the BIG EAST is streaming all the games today).
These two teams needed little prep for each other, since they last played Feb. 25 in South Bend (a 70-65 Irish win).
Tuesday, March 10 – 7:18 p.m. At the second media timeout, one student each from Notre Dame (in a leprechaun hat) and Rutgers shoot free throws. Both hit only two – the crowd boos. The Notre Dame student is David Grau, a freshman from nearby New Jersey. Organizers aren’t quite sure how to break the tie. Tuesday, March 10 – 7:10 p.m. It’s spring break at Notre Dame, so there’s a smattering of die-hard Leprechaun Legion-shirted Notre Dame students seated behind the basket and behind the Irish band, just adjacent to the Notre Dame team bench. Right next to the band, in the front row on the baseline, are more player families, including the Harangodys. Tuesday, March 10 – 7:03 p.m. Luke Harangody and Zach Hillesland both hit their first shots–good signs for Irish fans. In fact, Hillesland hits his second as well, both of them mid-range jump shots. Tuesday, March 10 – 6:50 p.m. The Garden technically is sold out since tickets are sold for all combined sessions, but there are plenty of empty seats as the Irish emerge for their final warm-ups. The presence of Rutgers and Seton Hall in the evening session should boost interest as the evening moves along.
A somewhat strange sight on the Rutgers bench is former Notre Dame assistant coach Danny Nee (also a former head coach at Ohio University, Nebraska, Robert Morris and Duquesne) from the Digger Phelps years – he’s now director of player development at Rutgers.
As one writer suggests, most of Staten Island appears to have migrated to MSG to watch native son Kyle McAlarney. In fact, a portion of the McAlarney clan is seated right behind the Irish bench.
Tuesday, March 10 – 5:37 p.m. Last year’s BIG EAST Player of the Year, Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody, passes one of this year’s BIG EAST MVPs, Hasheem Thabeet (he shares the honor with Pitt’s DeJaun Blair), in the bowels of Madison Square Garden a little more than 90 minutes prior to the Irish-Rutgers matchup. Harangody is headed to the Notre Dame locker room for his team’s game – Thabeet is waiting for the between-sessions BIG EAST awards presentations.
The Irish are assigned to the spacious New York Knicks locker room, where the MSG tradition oozes from the pores of the hallways. Just inside the Notre Dame locker room are 62 square bronze plaques, denoting the names of the Knick players and coaches for each team from 1946-47 through 2007-08. Enlarged color shots of current Knick and New York Liberty players can be found further down the hallway, along with some retro black-and-white New York Ranger shots, along with a hockey hall of fame gallery. In the hallway on the other side are photos of many of the entertainers who have performed at the Garden, from Frank Sinatra to Elton John.
The Irish have the assignment of changing the fortunes of the higher-seeded teams after #9 Cincinnati fell to #16 DePaul 67-57 in the first game of the day, followed by #12 Georgetown losing 64-59 to #13 St. John’s. The Cincinnati team also dressed in the Knick quarters, so the Irish can change the dynamics there as well. Across the hall from the Knick locker room, the Irish coaches have their own room, listed as the “bike room,” with a locked Gatorade cooler, four folding chairs and a dozen stationary bicycles pushed into the corner. It’s a safe haven of sorts for the coaches, who can gain a little peace and quiet there when they want/need it.
Monday, March 9 – 6:30 p.m.
Tory Jackson climbs onto an FDNY firetruck
A New York firehouse a half block from the Garden on 31st Street – FDNY’s 24 Truck and 1 Engine — is the dinner destination. This comes about as part of a Notre Dame 9/11 connection, via Jimmy Morandi, a longtime Notre Dame fan and retired New York firefighter who is a cancer survivor and has been part of the Coaches vs. Cancer program. The Irish squad has a barbeque dinner catered into the kitchen and back room of the firehouse – and within minutes there are two calls and both trucks head out into the night. As you wander into the firehouse, on the left are seven American flags above plaques commemorating 12 firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty, five of them at the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. First in command at 24 Truck, 1 Engine is Capt. John Henry, and the slogan on the front of shirts and back of jackets worn by the firefighters is “Midtown Madness.”
Zach Hillesland, Tory Jackson and Kyle McAlarney all model firefighting gear and pose for photos on the trucks. Meanwhile, 24 Truck, 1 Engine averages 5,000 calls per year. Among the firehouse visitors is Fred Cassel, an ’86 Notre Dame grad with an engineering degree, who is now right across the river as captain of the fire department in Linden, N.J.
Irish coach Mike Brey (and wife Tish), Tim Abromaitis and academic advisor Pat Holmes all ventured to the second floor of the firehouse and came down the fire pole. “We need one of these at our house,” suggested the Notre Dame head coach.
Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson and Zach Hillesland at the firehouse
Monday, March 9 – 12:30 p.m. Rainy and damp, but not too cold today. There are early-morning deliveries to make of Notre Dame’s BIG EAST Championship media guides both to the tournament headquarters hotel, the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street, and to the Madison Square Garden media room. The timing for everything is a day earlier with all 16 teams now playing in the event. Normally all 16 teams attend a Tuesday night banquet at the Grand Hyatt, but that had to be scratched with a full slate of games on Tuesday and four teams not playing until Thursday. In previous years, the BIG EAST Player of the Year and other awards have been presented at a press event at the Grand Hyatt just prior to the banquet, but that event, too, has been scratched in favor of a more limited presentation at MSG on Tuesday between the afternoon and evening sessions (just prior to the 7:00 p.m. Notre Dame-Rutgers game)
Following a late breakfast, the Irish bus heads over to The Sports Club/LA (on 61st Street off First Avenue) for practice. The modernistic facility has two full basketball courts on the seventh floor, separated by a climbing wall.
Sunday, March 8 – 11:00 p.m. The Irish bus arrives at the Dumont, with the weather a balmy 50 degrees. The players head to the third floor for a late snack. The Notre Dame party includes a few extra athletics administrators as well as families of coaching staff members – but misses transfers Scott Martin and Ben Hansbrough who by NCAA rules are not permitted to travel. Hansbrough had traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C., to watch his brother Tyler and his Carolina teammates defeat Duke this afternoon in Tyler’s final regular-season game in Chapel Hill. The late-night crowd makes a stop at P.J. Clarke’s at 55th and Third, where Sinatra reigns supreme on the jukebox. Sunday, March 8 – 8:30 p.m. Wheels finally go up for the 50-seat Irish team charter to New York. The flight was about two hours late arriving and leaving due to severe weather in the South Bend area. The plane came from West Lafayette where 70-mile-per-hour winds kept it on the ground. The Notre Dame party is bunking at the Affinia Dumont on 34th Street, actually a direct walk across town to Madison Square Garden if the weather’s okay. Sunday, March 8 – 2:30 p.m. After a day off on Saturday, the Irish return to the Joyce Center practice court this afternoon – in preparation for their first-round game on Tuesday night against Rutgers. Then, there is a quick detour for a quick dinner at Parisi’s near campus before the Notre Dame traveling party headed for Atlantic Aviation, the private terminal at Michiana Regional Airport. With the Irish flight delayed, the players catch the end of the Duke-North Carolina game on television.