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Men’s Basketball: Husky bites

Chris Hine | Thursday, February 14, 2008

Connecticut overcame shaky foul shooting down the stretch and a career-high 32 points from Irish sophomore Luke Harangody to capture its eighth straight victory with an 84-78 win over Notre Dame Wednesday in Storrs, Conn.

Huskies forward Gerald Robinson, an unlikely 3-point threat, nailed a trey against Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone with the shot-clock winding down to give No. 17 Connecticut (19-4, 8-3 Big East) a 79-74 lead with 1:57 to play. Connecticut hit only 5-of-10 free throws the rest of the game, but No. 20 Notre Dame (18-5, 8-3) managed only four points in that span, thanks seven straight misses from the floor.

“We still had a good chance,” Irish guard Tory Jackson said by phone after the game. “They gave us every opportunity in the world to come back and take the lead or just tie it. We just couldn’t seem to knock down some shots at the end.”

Connecticut guard A.J. Price scored 26 for the Huskies, who trailed most of the game until a pair of Jeff Adrien free throws with 3:25 left put Connecticut up for good.

“Minus the loss, I feel we played great tonight, especially in this tough of an atmosphere. It was like a tournament game atmosphere here,” Harangody said by phone. “I thought we played really well. Things just didn’t go well for us down the stretch.”

Throughout the second half, Connecticut did not let the Irish mount a significant run – Notre Dame’s biggest lead after intermission was 65-60 with 10:14 to play.

After Harangody hit a layup with 7:44 left, Connecticut’s defense clamped down, allowing Notre Dame a lone field goal the remainder of the game. The Huskies had a hard time scoring, but a dunk from guard Doug Wiggins after a rejection by forward Gavin Edwards at the other end got the crowd on its feet and gave the Huskies momentum.

“It just feels like we had this one the whole way and we couldn’t pull it out,” Harangody said. “They’re a great team and it’s an intense atmosphere to play here, especially on campus. So it was a good test for us.”

At 8-for-20, the Huskies weren’t spectacular from behind the arc. But most of their 3s came at critical times.

Early in the first half, a basket by Jackson gave Notre Dame an 11-6 advantage. A tip-in by Connecticut guard Craig Austrie and consecutive 3s from Austrie and Price quickly erased that lead. Later in the half, Connecticut double-dipped again. This time, Wiggins and Price hit from 3-point range to cut into an eight-point Notre Dame lead and stop a 9-2 Irish run.

In the second half, after a Kyle McAlarney three gave Notre Dame a four-point lead, Austrie answered to keep the Irish from gaining momentum.

McAlarney, who scored 32 in Notre Dame’s 73-67 win over Connecticut on Jan. 7, netted 12 this time on 4-for-14 shooting. Jackson finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

Harangody, who shot 5-for-23 against Connecticut’s 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet in the teams’ earlier meeting, Harangody found ways to score Wednesday against the taller – but slower – Thabeet.

Harangody produced a fair amount of points posting up and finding his way around Thabeet, but he also knocked down a few mid-range jumpshots and even beat Thabeet off the dribble.

The Big East player of the year candidate scored Notre Dame’s first eight points of the game and first 12 points of the second half. He finished 13-of-24 from the floor and tied his career high with 16 rebounds.

“The coaches were working with me to change it up and taking him inside and outside,” Harangody said. “I did a good job of that and when he came up and I just drove up the lane.”

Notre Dame will hit the road again to face Rutgers on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights are tied with South Florida for last place in the Big East with a 2-10 conference record.

“It was a good game and we fought hard,” Jackson said of Wednesday’s loss. “But we can’t dwell on it because we have a big game against Rutgers.”