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Men’s Basketball: Another day, another heartbreak

Pat Leonard | Monday, January 30, 2006

It happened again.

Villanova sophomore guard Kyle Lowry tipped in a Randy Foye miss with one second remaining Saturday night, handing Notre Dame a 72-70 loss at the Joyce Center. It was the second straight loss in which the Irish recovered from a sizeable deficit, only to come up short as the clock wound down.

Wildcats forward Dante Cunningham’s layup gave his team a 59-42 lead with 10:42 remaining. The Irish (10-8, 1-6 Big East) crawled back from the 17-point deficit, making 16-of-19 free throws down the stretch.

But just like Tuesday’s 85-82 loss to Georgetown – Notre Dame trailed by 15 late in the first half of that game – the Irish could not finish, allowing a 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore to invade the lane and steal one for the Wildcats (15-2, 6-1; No. 6 at week’s end).

“[Villanova has] some really explosive players and explosive scorers,” Irish point guard Chris Quinn said. “They started out well [in] the second half, … got us in a hole, and we did a great job of fighting back. But once again, we couldn’t close it at the end.”

Quinn neared triple-double statistics with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, nine rebounds and eight assists. Notre Dame guard Russell Carter (14 points, 8-of-11 free throws), guard Kyle McAlarney (13) and center Torin Francis (11) also scored in double figures to help the comeback.

“When [the deficit] is at 17, I’m wondering if it’s going to get ugly in our building,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I give our guys a lot of credit for giving [us] a chance to win.”

The Irish had a 68-67 lead with 29 seconds to play, despite Carter’s fouling out the play before on a reach-in at Foye (18 points, four assists), who made both free throws.

Quinn responded by firing and missing a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key with time remaining on the shot clock. Wildcats guard Mike Nardi (5-of-11 from three, 22 points) contested the shot, and Villanova rebounded and rushed upcourt, finding guard Allan Ray for the lay up and the foul.

Ray, who led all players in scoring with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, converted the free throw, putting the Wildcats up two. Quinn drove by Nardi on the ensuing possession and dished to Francis from under the basket to tie the game at 70. But Foye’s drive on the final possession drew attention, and Lowry elevated toward the miss for the tip and the win.

“It’d be harder if we were getting blown out by 20 points,” Carter said afterwards, “because we [would be] wondering if we’re not good enough … [But] every game, we compete.”

Irish shooting guard Colin Falls, who had made 49.1 percent of his 57 three-point attempts in the past five games, attempted only two shots Saturday against the quick, guard-heavy Wildcats. Notre Dame still managed to go into halftime down only one point, 35-34, by out-rebounding (21-to-15) and out-shooting (48 percent-to-41 percent) Villanova.

But Foye, Nardi and Ray would combine to score 63 of Villanova’s 72 total points, including 7-of-11 three-point shooting from Nardi and Ray in the first half.

“Foye and Ray are pros,” Brey said. “Some of it’s not just – when you’re playing a team like Villanova – us not [getting the job done].”

Notre Dame won the tap to begin the game, but neither team scored until Carter made 1-of-2 free throws with 17:00 remaining. Francis scored on a pass from Carter next to send the Irish up 3-0, but Ray responded with a 3-pointer to tie the game going into the first timeout.

From there, Villanova recovered temporarily from an early shooting slump, making 3-of-6 to go up 11-9 with 11:56 remaining. Notre Dame then went on a 5-0 run and gained momentum on a Quinn-to-Carter alley-oop that sent a sold-out Joyce Center crowd into a frenzy.

But the Wildcats made 8-of-16 three-pointers in the first half and held the lead, coming out in the second half on a 24-8 run that finished with Cunningham’s basket.

“That’s how fragile the basketball game is,” Brey said. “It’s been a tough hump for us to get over, a tough hump … If we can be in game situations and have a chance most of the rest of the year, that’s probably all we can ask right now.”

Notre Dame is scheduled to play West Virginia (15-4, 6-0; ranked No. 9/13 at week’s end) in Morgantown, W.Va. on Wednesday at 7 p.m.