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Men’s Basketball: Irish take Big East opener

Chris Khorey | Sunday, January 6, 2008

Those weren’t boos raining down from the Joyce Center crowd Thursday.The cries of “Luuuuuke” were long and loud from the biggest Notre Dame home crowd of the season so far as sophomore forward Luke Harangody poured in 29 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to lead the Irish to a 69-56 victory over West Virginia in the Big East opener for both teams.”It feels good, especially when you come into Big East play,” Harangody said of his performance. “We were waiting ever since last year to get into Big East play again. You could feel it in the locker room. We were ready.”Notre Dame (11-2, 1-0 Big East) won its ninth straight game overall and extended its school record Joyce Center winning streak to 29.”Me and [sophomore point guard] Tory Jackson talked about never losing here through our entire careers,” Harangody said of the home court streak, which began during the 2005-06 season, while the pair were still in high school.Harangody made his first seven attempts from the field, with his first miss coming on a three point shot with four seconds left in the first half.”He threw up a three pointer – that was a little too much,” Jackson joked after the game.West Virginia (10-3, 0-1) started ice cold from the field, making just one of their first nine shots and allowing Notre Dame to take a 9-3 lead.The Mountaineers responded with an 11-2 run to take a 14-11 lead with 11:54 left in the first half. It was be the last lead they would see all night.The Irish bounced right back with a 14-4 run of their own, started by two consecutive threes by junior guard Ryan Ayers and finished with a thunderous dunk by junior forward Zach Hillesland that forced Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins to call a timeout.West Virginia slowed Notre Dame down with a 2-3 zone, but still trailed 37-28 at the half.The Moutaineers closed the lead to 41-34 with just under 16 minutes to play, but Irish sophomore guard Tory Jackson put his team back up by double figures with two straight threes.Jackson was just 3-for-23 from behind the arc coming into the game, but hit 2-of-3 Thursday as part of his 12 points, good for second on the team behind Harangody.Late in the game, West Virginia made a run. An old-fashioned three point play by guard Joe Mazzula closed the Mountaineers to within nine at 61-52 with 3:03 remaining.But that was as close as West Virginia would get as three Harangody free throws put the Irish lead in double digits for good.Forward Alex Ruoff was the only Mountaineers player in double figures with 18 points, but that came on just 6-of-17 shooting, including 4-for-12 from behind the three point arc.The Irish turned the ball over 20 times, but made up for it with a 46-33 advantage on the glass, thanks to Harangody’s 16 boards and 13 more from senior forward Rob Kurz.Notre Dame has little time to rest before its next Big East contest. The Irish host Connecticut Saturday at 9 p.m.