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Men’s Basketball: Cougars D stifles Irish O

Chris Khorey | Sunday, March 23, 2008

DENVER – Washington State picked up right where it left off.

The Cougars held first round opponent Winthrop to 11 points in the second half of their 71-40 win Thursday, then stifled Notre Dame for an entire game Saturday, holding the usually high-scoring Irish to just 41 points, barely half of their average.

“They certainly deserve to move on,” Irish coach Mike Brey said.

Notre Dame tied a Brey-era low with the 41 points. The previous low was 48, against Georgetown on Jan. 6, 2007 and North Carolina State on Nov. 26, 2005.

“Man, it feels like a dream right now,” Cougars guard Kyle Weaver said. “To go out and perform like that, and to beat a good team like Notre Dame by 20 points, it was pretty neat.”

Washington State controlled the tempo the entire game, taking nearly 30 seconds off the shot clock on every possession and getting back on defense to prevent fast breaks. Notre Dame tried repeatedly to quicken the pace, but couldn’t make the Cougars run-and-gun with them.

“They just got back and played very good defense,” Irish guard Kyle McAlarney said. “It was very hard for us to get out in transition.”

The Irish did not score any fast break points and had only seven assists, ten below their average.

“They want to push the ball and take quick shots, open threes early,” Cowgill said. “So we knew if we had a chance at the game, we were going to have to get back and make them play half court offense against our set half court D.”

The Cougars held the Irish to the worst output of Brey’s tenure in field goal percentage (24.5 percent Saturday) and first-half points. Notre Dame scored just 19 points in the first half, a mark of offensive futility they hadn’t matched since Feb. 21, 2004 against Connecticut.

The Irish also tied the fewest field goals made in the Brey era at 13, which was previously set against Rutgers March 1, 2003.

“It was tough because we’re used to putting up big numbers,” Irish guard Ryan Ayers said. “We have to give credit to them. They deserve it.”

At the other end of the court, the Cougars were very efficient, shooting 44 percent from the field, including 59 percent inside the three-point arc. They also only turned the ball over seven times – with just two of those coming in the first half while they built a lead.

“We can’t get out in transition if we can’t get stops,” McAlarney said. “They were really flowing offensively and they were really in a good rhythm.”

Washington State held Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody to 10 points – about half of his average – on 3-of-17 shooting from the field. Cougars center Aron Baynes guarded Harangody for most the game, but other Washington State players doubled down on him basically every time he got the ball.

“We thought when he got it, trap him hard and get it out of his hands,” Cougars coach Tony Bennett said.

The game was physical on both ends, but the officials called it loosely. Neither team reached the bonus in the first half, and just 31 total fouls were called.

“The refs let us play,” Cowgill said. “They let us be physical in there.”

The Irish couldn’t take advantage of the traps on Harangody, shooting 3-for-17 from beyond the 3-point arc. Brey said the Irish got open looks that they “stroked the other night” in their 68-50 win over George Mason Thursday, but that tired legs meant the shots came up short Saturday.

McAlarney, who came in shooting over 44 percent from long distance, was just 2-for-8.

“It wasn’t my best performance,” he said. “It’s very hard to deal with. It’s very hard to end the season like that.”