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Men’s Basketball: Hot Hand Luke

Fran Tolan | Monday, February 4, 2008

Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody scored 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to win his game-long battle against DePaul big man Mac Koshwal as the Irish defeated the Blue Demons 89-80 Saturday at the Joyce Center.

Koshwal’s 18 points and nine rebounds were not enough as DePaul’s second-half rally fell short and the Irish won their 33rd straight home game.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Harangody said. “When you’re playing like this, it’s just great to be on the court.”

After DePaul cut Notre Dame’s lead to 68-66 on a 3-point play by Blue Demons guard Cliff Clinkscales, the Irish responded with a 9-2 run. On Notre Dame’s next possession, Irish guard Kyle McAlarney, who finished with 17 points, took a pass from point guard Tory Jackson and drilled a 3-pointer.

After McAlarney’s trey, Irish forward Ryan Ayers nailed a baseline jumper and Harangody tipped in his own miss to give the Irish a 75-68 cushion. The sophomore finished with 10 offensive boards, and the Irish converted 30 second-chance points to DePaul’s 10. Tory Jackson stole the ball on the next Blue Demons possession and pushed it up court to Ayers for a thunderous dunk. The home crowd went wild and Notre Dame never looked back.

The Irish held off every subsequent Blue Demons run and made their crunch-time free throws to put their conference rivals away. Notre Dame finished with a 17-1 edge in foul shots made.

After beating Providence 81-74 Thursday night in overtime, the Irish trailed for much of the first half against DePaul. But their legs were fresh enough to build a 46-36 halftime lead.

“Today our energy was back,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “Thursday night, we invested a lot physically and emotionally.”

With DePaul leading 21-19, Ayers nailed a baseline jumper with 6:54 left in the first half. Blue Demons center Wesley Green then turned the ball over and Jackson found Irish guard Jonathan Peoples for a transition layup. Overall, the Irish converted 11 fast-break points to just two for DePaul.

After the basket by Peoples, the Irish led for the remainder of the game and improved their record to 16-4 overall and 6-2 in Big East play. The squad is alone in second place in the conference standings, trailing only Georgetown.

“I told our guys we’re in great position but we’re not even halfway through the league yet,” Brey said. “But I’m proud of how we’ve handled … this week.”

Brey said his team hopes to crack the top 25 in the national rankings this week but is not overly concerned with the polls.

“I think we probably have earned that [honor] quite frankly,” Brey said. “But if we don’t get it, nobody’s losing any sleep here.”