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Men’s Basketball: End of the line

Fran Tolan | Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Even though Notre Dame was playing in the City that Never Sleeps, the team’s offense never woke up Tuesday night. The Irish fell to Penn State 67-59 in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Notre Dame shot just 21-of-63 in the contest and trailed by as many as 19 points during the second half.

“It was just one of those nights where we couldn’t get a shot to fall,” Irish junior Luke Harangody said. “I was laughing with coach Brey on the sideline because we just couldn’t get a shot to fall.”

The Notre Dame offense got off to a slow start and never picked up any steam. The Irish shot just 5-of-30 from the field in the first half andfell behind 31-18 at intermission. The point total in the period tied a low for the program since coach Mike Brey took over nine years ago.

“We just didn’t hit shots,” Irish point guard Tory Jackson said. “We had some open looks in the first half but it just wasn’t a good flow for us.”

Harangody led the Irish with 17 points but shot just 5-of-16 from the field.

“I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened,” Harangody said. “We went a couple minutes where our offense was playing well but we just couldn’t keep it going.”

The Irish went on a 17-2 run to cut the deficit to 51-47 late in the second half but could get no closer. Penn State forward Jamelle Cornley, who finished with 15 points, converted a basket on the next Nittany Lions possession to propel his team to the victory.

“We felt great after we got it to [within] four but we couldn’t get any closer,” Harangody said. “We had some juice going but it just came down to free throws and they got it done.”

Penn State made 15 free throws while Notre Dame converted eight.

The loss ends the careers of the four Notre Dame seniors, who experienced many highs and lows while playing for the Irish.

“It was very hard for the seniors, they were obviously upset,” Harangody said. “But they made two NCAA [Tournaments], two NIT’s. They have nothing to hang their heads about.”

Jackson said he and his fellow underclassmen tried to remind the seniors how much they contributed to the Notre Dame basketball program.

“We were just trying to cheer them up because they’re a little down right now,” Jackson said. “But we try to remind them that some of them will play at the next level and some will stick around … There’s always room for good guys like those guys.”

Harangody agreed with Jackson, saying that the seniors have left an indelible imprint on the team.

“We just have to realize how much they’ve all done for the program,” Jackson said. “They put Notre Dame basketball on the map.”

Penn State moves on to the NIT final Thursday to face Baylor, who beat San Diego State 76-62 Tuesday.