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Men’s Basketball: Upset highlights five wins

Michael Bryan | Wednesday, January 13, 2010

With a few weeks to focus solely on basketball, the Irish are heating up at the right time. Notre Dame went 5-1 over the semester break, including a 3-1 start to the Big East season, and capped off the stretch with a 70-68 upset of then-No. 8 West Virginia.

To no one’s surprise, the Irish were anchored by senior forward Luke Harangody, who scored 24 points at home in the win over the Mountaineers on Jan. 9.

“It’s a huge win for us. In conference play you need to protect your home floor,” Harangody said after the win. “We knew that coming in tonight, we knew that we needed this win. Sitting at 3-1 in the Big East with a week off before Cincinnati is not a bad place to be right now.”

Notre Dame dominated the first half against West Virginia, taking a 20 point lead into halftime. After a furious rally by the Mountaineers, the Irish held on for the victory as forward Da’Sean Butler’s shot at the buzzer barely missed.

The Irish started the break with a big 84-73 win over historical powerhouse UCLA at Purcell Pavilion on Dec. 19. While the Bruins have struggled this season, Irish coach Mike Brey was pleased with the nationally televised win.

“We did some fearless stuff and some mature stuff and we figured out a way to win,” Brey said. “I was interested to see what this place would be like with the first big-game atmosphere. It was awesome.”

The Irish received an early Christmas present in the form of a 101-69 rout of Bucknell on Dec. 22. Harangody’s double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds led the way for Notre Dame.

The Irish then kicked off Big East play on Dec. 30, closing out the year with a 93-78 home victory over Providence, led by 23 points from senior guard Jonathan Peoples. The win was Brey’s 200th as head coach at Notre Dame.

Brey and the Irish faced a huge test to begin 2010, facing No. 10 Connecticut on the road on Jan. 2. While Notre Dame suffered its first conference loss of the season, the Irish kept the game close until the Huskies pulled away in the closing minutes. Harangody led all scorers with 31 points and the game featured 17 lead changes.

Notre Dame rebounded to capture its first conference road win a few days later, edging South Florida 74-73. Harangody tallied 36 points including the game-winning free throw as the Irish held on despite a strong rally from the Bulls.

Following the wins over USF and West Virginia, Harangody was named the Big East Player of the Week and the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. The senior captain averaged 30 points and 5.5 rebounds in the two games.

After the huge win over the Mountaineers, the Irish will continue the gauntlet of the Big East schedule Saturday with another road test at Cincinnati. After facing the Bearcats, Notre Dame will return home for a difficult game against No. 5 Syracuse on Monday.