Men’s Basketball: En fuego
Chris Khorey | Monday, February 25, 2008
When he stood behind the arc, it seemed like Kyle McAlarney couldn’t miss.
The Notre Dame junior nailed a school-record nine 3-pointers, some from well beyond the 3-point line, as the Irish won their 36th straight home game, 94-87 over Syracuse.
“He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen,” junior forward Ryan Ayers said.
McAlarney scored 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting, with only two of those misses coming from 3-point range.
“I felt really confident tonight,” McAlarney said. “Especially because they were in zone. I knew my teammates would get me the ball.”
Notre Dame (21-5, 11-3 Big East) never trailed, despite being out-rebounded 51-33 by the Orange.
“They’re really an athletic group,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “They’re hard to keep off the backboard and out of the lane.”
Syracuse (17-11, 7-8) had 24 offensive rebounds and converted those into 22 second chance points.
But on Sunday, McAlarney’s hot shooting kept Notre Dame from losing this one.
He began the day by scoring a quick seven points to lead his team to an 11-4 lead.
The Orange clawed back, getting to within two at 14-12, but Notre Dame extended and then kept its lead during a fast-paced first half, shooting 59.3 percent shooting from the field to take a 46-36 lead into the locker room.
The two teams traded baskets for the first six minutes of the second half, but with 13:51 left, Irish forward Ryan Ayers stole the ball and took it coast to coast, dunking over a Syracuse defender and giving Notre Dame a 60-47 lead.
“I hope I can get a couple more of those,” Ayers said. “The guys had been really on me, saying I can’t dunk, but I’m sure they’ll back off today.”
Led by Ayers, who had 10 points, Notre Dame’s bench scored 19 on the day. Sophomore guard Jonathan Peoples scored seven points and dished out an assist in extended playing time in the first half after starting point guard Tory Jackson got in foul trouble.
“Me, [forward] Luke [Zeller], and [Peoples] just want to be catalysts off the bench,” Ayers said. “We’re all three players that could be starters.”
After Ayers’ dunk, the Orange went on an 11-6 run over the next three minutes to cut the lead to single figures at 66-58 with 10:35 to play.
Then McAlarney went back to work, hitting two straight 3-pointers to extend the lead to 76-64 with 7:23 left.
The Orange had one last run in them, and a dunk by forward Arinze Onuaku brought them within six at 78-72 with four minutes left.
After a media timeout, the Irish responded with four straight points from Harangody, the second basket a dunk on a pass from junior forward Zach Hillesland.
Harangody had his eighth double-double in nine games with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Hillesland finished the game with six points, six assists and four rebounds.
Syracuse resorted to fouling with just under two minutes remaining and managed to close to within six at 93-87 with 15 seconds left, but that was as close as the Orange would get.
With the win, Notre Dame retained sole possession of third place in the Big East, half a game behind conference co-leaders Louisville and Georgetown and tied in the loss column. The Irish take on Louisville Thursday at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.
Former Irish guards Colin Falls (2003-07), Matt Carroll (1999-2003) and Keith Friel (1997-99) held the previous Notre Dame record for 3-pointers in a game with eight. Falls did it twice, once against Seton Hall on Feb. 18, 2006 and once against Pittsburgh on March 5, 2005.
“I’m going to call Colin up tonight and rub it in his face,” McAlarney said.
Notre Dame honored its 1978 Final Four team at halftime. Head coach Digger Phelps got a roaring ovation and a video was shown chronicling the 1977-78 season.