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Men’s Basketball: Irish Lose Heartbreaker in Big East Tournament

Chris Hine | Monday, March 12, 2007

NEW YORK – Russell Carter made it seem so easy in the first half.

The Notre Dame guard knocked down four 3-pointers in the opening frame with the help of his dribble-pullback combination.

But with less than five seconds remaining and the Irish trailing 84-82 against Georgetown Friday, Carter’s open look beyond the arc missed and Notre Dame’s hopes of a Big East tournament title ended at the hands of the Hoyas.

“I caught it, I saw a defender bit on [my headfake]. I caught it just in time, took a dribble and pulled it and missed,” Carter said.

With 13 seconds left and the score tied at 82, Georgetown forward Jeff Green, who finished with a game high 30 points, gave the Hoyas the lead with a bucket in the lane.

“My team just found me down low. [Notre Dame] wasn’t making it hard to throw it down,” Green said. “[Patrick Ewing Jr.] just threw it down and I went into my move and they fouled me and I got the lucky roll. I just put it up there and tried to get it on the rim and it went in. It was a lucky shot.”

Irish forward Luke Harangody fouled Green on the play, but Green missed the ensuing free throw. Carter grabbed the rebound and gave it to Irish guard Tory Jackson. Jackson drove the ball down the floor to set up Carter’s final shot.

Notre Dame had grabbed its final lead of the game after forward Rob Kurz hit a pair of free throws to make the score 78-76 with 2:54 left. Georgetown scored the next four points to retake the lead. A pair of DaJuan Summers foul shots put the Hoyas up 82-79. Jackson then tied the game at 82 with a reverse lay-up off a missed free throw by Harangody. That lay-up wasn’t the only time Jackson kept Notre Dame in the game.

Trailing 76-69 with 4:55 remaining, the Irish turned to Jackson to bring them back. Notre Dame spread the floor and allowed Jackson to penetrate into the lane. The freshman scored the next seven points of the game to tie the game at 76 with 3:25 left. Jackson, who finished with 20 points, wowed the Madison Square Garden crowd by hitting a number of difficult shots around the basket.

“We were riding him there and he’s a fearless young man,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “There’s a toughness factor that he’s brought to our basketball team…. We had some sets where we just wanted to open the floor and let him go a little bit, and once he got the first one and it was looking pretty good, you know, we rode it.”

The Irish came out on fire, hitting seven of their first 11 attempts from three-point land. Carter made 4-of-6 while Falls hit 3-of-5. 3-pointers by Carter twice gave Notre Dame its largest lead of the night which was 14 with 7:36 and 6:34 left in the first half. Notre Dame shot 16-of-34 for the half and 8-of-14 from beyond the arc.

At first, the Hoyas had trouble attacking Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone defense, committing multiple turnovers early in the game. But during Notre Dame’s shooting exhibition in the first half, Green and Summers kept the Hoyas in the game. Summers scored 14 points in the first half. Green was able to drive through the zone and get to the foul line. The Big East Player of the Year was 9-of-9 from the charity strips and finished with 17 for the half.

Whether he posted up, slashed through the defense or attacked the offensive glass, Green presented a problem for the Irish.

“The performance Jeff Green put on today was special and just our team in general hanging in there, everyone,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “Everyone sticking together when we could have caved on several occasions from the beginning of the game midway through the second half, and just we fought, we hung in there together.”

By playing a zone, the Irish left themselves vulnerable on the defensive glass since it is harder to box out in a zone than in man-to-man defense. The Hoyas took advantage of these rebounding gaps to grab eight offensive rebounds and score 15 second-chance points in the first half. Georgetown went on a 10-2 run to close the half down two, 46-44.

Notre Dame’s hot shooting did not carry over into the second half of play. The Hoyas clamped down on Notre Dame’s shooters and limited the Irish to 11-of-34 shooting for the half, including a 2-of-12 performance from 3-point land. For the game, the Irish shot 40 percent from the field.

Between 16:35 and 4:35 in the second half, the Irish managed only three field goals before Jackson went on his tear. Meanwhile, Georgetown had nine field goals during this same span.

The Hoyas shot 31-of-59 for 53 percent for the contest. Summers finished with 18 points and Ewing, Jr. had 15 – ten of those coming in the second half.

The Irish will find out Sunday who and when they play in NCAA Tournament.

“Our heads will be up by [Saturday] morning and we’ll be excited about playing again, because we’re getting better and I think playing really well at the right time,” Brey said.