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Men’s Basketball: Harangody’s absence felt in loss

Michael Bryan | Monday, February 15, 2010

Desperately needing a win but with their best player on the sidelines in a suit, the struggling Irish came up just short, falling 69-68 to St. John’s at home Sunday.

Two free throws from Red Storm guard D.J. Kennedy with 12.5 seconds to go gave the Red Storm (14-10, 4-8 Big East) the late lead, and two attempts from senior guard Tory Jackson in the closing seconds came up short.

With senior forward Luke Harangody out after suffering a knee injury in the second half of Thursday’s loss to Seton Hall, junior Tim Abromaitis led the Irish offensively with 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

“Everyone had to step up and obviously we missed ‘Gody out there,” Abromaitis said. “At the same time we made some mistakes out there we shouldn’t have missed. We put ourselves in a position to win but couldn’t do it down the stretch.”

After looking out of rhythm offensively in the game’s opening minutes, Hansbrough began attacking the Red Storm defense from the inside and outside. The junior hit his first five attempts from the field, scoring 12 of Notre Dame’s first 15 points.

While St. John’s kept pace, trailing just 15-14 early, Abromaitis keyed a 7-0 run to give Notre Dame (17-9, 6-7) an eight-point lead with 10 minutes remaining in the half.

Just as quickly, the Red Storm went on a run of their own. Draining three straight shots from distance led St. John’s on a 12-0 run, putting Notre Dame down four.

The Irish briefly regained the lead on a 3 by Abromaitis, only to see St. John’s guard D.J. Kennedy answer right back. A late basket by Red Storm guard Malik Boothe gave the visitors a 37-34 lead at the break.

“They shot lights out, and they beat us to those spots, and fought us long enough,” Jackson said. “We’re a lot better than what we played today. We didn’t take care of the ball at all.”

Notre Dame came out flat after the half, sputtering offensively and giving up three early buckets, allowing St. John’s to expand its lead to 45-38. After slowly making up ground on the Red Storm, a Tyrone Nash layup put the Irish within a field goal at 49-47.
Nash tallied 16 points working the post without Harangody underneath.

A 3-pointer from Jackson, who missed his first seven shots from the floor, tied the game at 52 with less than eight minutes to go.

The game remained close down the stretch with both teams fighting hard to drive the basket and drawing fouls. Down 64-60, Abromaitis converted a 3-point play off of a nice look from Nash to close within a point with a little over two minutes remaining.

After forcing a St. John’s turnover, Abromaitis hit another 3-pointer, his third of the game, to put Notre Dame up two.

With less than a minute to go, Red Storm guard Dwight Tardy hit a huge 3-pointer to slow the Irish momentum and put St. John’s back up. Notre Dame responded by going back into the post to Nash, who drew a foul and converted two clutch free throws for a 68-67 lead.

“My guys got me open down there to go to work, and I’m comfortable with that,” Nash said. “I just tried to take advantage, and I had to work harder without Luke in there.”

The Red Storm went to their leading scorer Kennedy on their next possession, who drove the basket and was fouled. Jackson attempted two deep 3s in the closing seconds, but neither came close.

The Irish will next face Louisville at the Purcell Pavilion Wednesday at 7 p.m.