Mens’ Basketball: Top 10s vs. Big Tens
Chris Hine | Friday, December 5, 2008
On Saturday, the Irish will try to pick up another resume-building win when they take on Ohio State at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but they may have to do it without junior forward Luke Harangody.
Harangody, who missed No. 7/7 Notre Dame’s (6-1) last two games because of pneumonia he contracted during the Maui Invitational last week, planned on participating in practice Thursday and Friday, but said it will be a game time decision as to whether or not he will play against the Buckeyes (4-0).
“I talked to [coach Mike Brey] about how we need to play this safe, because you don’t want a relapse coming back in the Big East season when you’ve got a big game every other day,” Harangody said before practice Thursday.
Brey said he isn’t going to try to rush Harangody back into the lineup.
“I’m going to be really cautious with this, because it is a big game, but it isn’t a big game either,” Brey said. “I told Luke in the Los Angeles airport as he was in misery flying back, ‘Worst case, if we have you 100 percent as we’re going over to play DePaul on New Year’s Eve, that’s when I need you.'”
So far, Notre Dame has played just fine in Harangody’s absence, though it hasn’t played anyone on the same level competitively as Ohio State, who is receiving votes in both polls and defeated No. 21/22 Miami 73-68 Tuesday. The Irish defeated Furman and South Dakota by wide margins without Harangody.
During those games, senior guard Kyle McAlarney continued his hot shooting from the outside. In Notre Dame’s last three games, McAlarney has hit 26-of-48 (54 percent) from three-point range – he buried 10 against North Carolina in the finals of the Maui Invitational, nine against Furman and seven against South Dakota.
“If I was coaching against Kyle, I might pull the old Stephen Curry trick with a triangle-and-two on him,” senior forward Zach Hillesland said, referring to the Davidson’s 78-48 win over Loyola-Maryland, in which Loyola held the Davidson star to zero points by double-teaming him the entire game. “But the way he’s been shooting has been amazing.”
McAlarney added: “I credit my teammates, but I’m not expecting to be hot like this the whole season. So there’s other things that I feel like I’m bringing to the table that I need to be consistent with, like leadership.”
McAlarney, however, isn’t the only one on a hot streak. Senior forward Ryan Ayers has stepped up while Harangody has been out.
Ayers scored 19 against Furman and had 25 points in the first half against South Dakota on his way to a career-high 35 for the game.
“That’s one of the things we talked about when we got back from Maui,” Brey said. “I thought he could’ve been a little more aggressive out there and we need him to be, because they’re going to take away Kyle or take away ‘Gody and he is going to get those open looks and we don’t want him to be bashful or turn anything down.”
McAlarney and Ayers see a lot of open looks when the Irish come down the floor in transition, and against Ohio State, if Notre Dame can break the Buckeyes’ full-court press, the Irish could get some open looks for their shooters.
“They have a 2-2-1 press every made basket, every made free throw, and then go back to a zone,” Brey said “That takes a kind of mental toughness and concentration to attack both defenses; when to attack the press to score, and when to attack it and then attack their zone.”
The Buckeyes, coached by Thad Matta, average 65.8 points per game to Notre Dame’s 87.1, but Ohio State only allows 47.3 points per game to Notre Dame’s 68.7. They spread their scoring around their lineup, with guard Evan Turner as Ohio State’s leading scorer with 13.8 points per game.
uMcAlarney, who is no fan of shaving, has been on his hot streak while sporting his on-again, off-again beard.
“I know he rotates in and out of the Brett Favre look, but whatever he’s doing with his facial hair, don’t change right now,” Brey said. “I don’t want him to change.”