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Men’s Basketball: Squad falls at last second

Bill Brink | Monday, January 18, 2010

When the Irish returned to South Bend following their 60-58 loss to Cincinnati Saturday, Mike Brey tore up the stat sheet in front of them.

“I said, ‘We made a run at it,'” the Irish coach said. “‘Yeah, there’s some things we could have done better. I don’t want anyone dwelling on things that they didn’t do.”

They can’t afford to, because No. 5 Syracuse comes to town tonight. Brey said he thinks the Orange (17-1, 4-1 Big East) are the best team in the country.

The Irish (14-4, 3-2) lost to the Bearcats (12-6, 3-3) on a last-second tip-in by Yancy Gates, who grabbed his own rebound and put it back with 2.4 seconds to go. That play was indicative of an overall rebounding problem for the Irish, who were out-rebounded 50-31.

“They’re just big bodies, tough on the inside,” junior forward Tim Abromaitis said. “It showed in our rebounding stats.”

The Irish offense struggled as well. Senior forward Luke Harangody made just 5-of-20 field goal attempts and the Irish made only 47.4 percent of their foul shots.
Senior guard Tory Jackson said the offense would rebound because the shot selection was good.

“Offensively, there’s nothing to change,” he said. “We got great shots. Those shots will fall down. Nothing to be upset about.”

The Irish led by seven at the half, but the Bearcats pulled back in the second half. Senior guard Ben Hansbrough sank a jumper to tie the score at 58 with 23 seconds left, but the Irish couldn’t prevent Gates’ putback.

“It’s really hard to win on the road in the Big East,” Hansbrough said. “We had every chance to win and we just didn’t quite finish like we should have.”

Playing games in quick succession, however, can help the team bounce back, something Brey said he talked to the team about after the loss to Connecticut.

“I think we’ll be excited to be back home,” Brey said. “You just can’t dwell too much on disappointment.”

The home court will help the team get energized, as it has in recent years.

“I heard one of the players before a couple weeks ago, just before we played, say, ‘Y’all are really good here,'” Jackson said. “Even to hear them say that, they’ve already beat themselves.”

The Orange squeaked out a 72-71 win over No. 10 West Virginia Saturday but have played outstanding lately. Since a 10-point loss to St. John’s on Jan. 2, their only loss of the season, they have won four straight.

Junior forward Wes Johnson leads Syracuse in scoring with 16.8 points per game, but Johnson has recently been suffering from the flu. Freshman guard Brandon Triche led the team with 16 points against West Virginia.

Brey said he knows how good Syracuse in part because of the attention the game is attracting: 26 profressional scouts will attend.

“We’ve had more NBA people come to this game than in our history,” he said. “That must mean they’ve got a lot of pros.”