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Men’s Basketball: Harangody’s 19 points, 14 boards keep team from blowing late lead

Chris Hine | Wednesday, December 5, 2007

More than 200 friends and family members went to Madison Square Garden Tuesday to see Kyle McAlarney’s homecoming, and McAlarney didn’t let them down.

The Staten Island native scored Notre Dame’s final nine points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 1:32 remaining, to lift Notre Dame (6-2) to a 68-59 victory over Kansas State (5-3) in the Jimmy V Classic. McAlarney finished with 18 points in his first game in New York since his semester-long suspension following a January arrest on charges of marijuana possession.

“It was a great feeling,” McAlarney said in a phone interview after the game. “Those were all the people that were behind me through the tough times, and it just feels so good that I could come back and play in front of them and just give them a good show.”

Forward Luke Harangody added 19 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for the Irish in their first victory over a major-conference opponent.

“It’s a great victory for us. I think mentally, it gives us a lot of confidence,” Harangody said by phone. “It was pretty much just like a road game. It was a hostile environment. A lot of people weren’t rooting for us.”

Notre Dame lost two close games to power-conference schools – Baylor and Georgia Tech – at the Paradise Jam Tournament in the Virgin Islands in November. Tuesday’s game against Kansas State represented Notre Dame’s last chance to defeat a power-conference opponent before beginning Big East play on Jan. 3 against West Virginia. Irish coach Mike Brey said he was pleased with how his team responded to the pressure of the game.

“I thought we were a lot more mentally tough than we were in the Virgin Islands,” Brey told ESPN after the game.

With the Irish ahead 59-57 and just over two minutes left to play, McAlarney drove along the baseline and hit a runner to put the Irish up by four. Kansas State freshman forward Michael Beasley hit a pair of free throws on the Wildcats next possession to pull the Wildcats back within two. Beasley, who entered the contest averaging 26.7 points and 15 rebounds per game, finished with 19 points on 8-for-21 shooting and 14 rebounds, but only had four points in the second half.

After junior forward Zach Hillesland grabbed one of his nine rebounds on Notre Dame’s next trip down the floor, he swung the ball to Jackson, who passed to McAlarney at the top of the key. A confident McAlarney, who had scored more than 20 points in his last three games, drained the open shot from just inside the NBA 3-point line, giving Notre Dame a five-point lead.

“It was a broken play, and I knew once that ball was swinging I had a good look and if that went in, that was going to be a huge dagger for us,” McAlarney said. “So I have to step up and take that. Luckily, I made it.”

Following a Beasley miss, Irish forward Luke Harangody knocked a loose ball out of bounds in front of the Wildcat bench. Long-armed Irish forward Ryan Ayers got a hand on the ensuing in-bounds pass, which then went out of bounds off Kansas State forward Bill Walker.

“He has really good instincts on both ends of the floor,” Hillesland said of Ayers. “He has a lot of length for that three-man even that two-man defender. He provides that extra length other players don’t have. His instincts in just reading plays really helps us out on the defensive end of the floor.”

Kansas State was forced to foul the rest of the way, and McAlarney hit four free throws to seal the victory.

The Irish used a 2-3 zone to pit multiple defenders against Beasley, the highly-touted freshman, in the first half but switched primarily to man-to-man in the second. The Irish employed a number of defenders, whether in zone or man, to contain Beasley. And even though the Irish often played zone – a defense susceptible to allowing offensive rebounds – they were able to win the battle on the boards 41-36.

“That was our biggest point of emphasis coming into the game,” Hillesland said by phone. “… So it was just really big team awareness in terms of blocking out every guy and trying to get every rebound. We haven’t done as good a job of that in previous games and I thought that extra attention to that area really paid off tonight.”

Harangody dominated much of the first half – scoring 11 of Notre Dame’s first 13 points and finishing the period with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Irish led most of the initial 20 minutes, though their perimeter game struggled – Notre Dame shot just 1-for-12 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Irish guard Tory Jackson, at a mere 5-foot-11, tipped in a Rob Kurz miss over a 6-foot-10 Wildcats forward Luis Colon to give Notre Dame its biggest lead of the half at 28-18.

Beasley took over for Kansas State the rest of the half, using his athleticism inside to score 10 points in the final seven minutes of the frame and pull his team within 36-34 at the half.