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Men’s Basketball: Off their backs

Chris Khorey | Saturday, March 10, 2007

NEW YORK – The situation was tense.

No. 16/22 Notre Dame had been leading for most of the second half of Thursday’s contest with Syracuse, but the Orange had just switched to a full court press and were threatening to come back, down just 76-70 with two minutes remaining.

It was then that Irish senior captain Colin Falls calmly spotted up and knocked down his seventh three of the afternoon to put Notre Dame up by nine. The Irish hit their free throws down the stretch and came away with an 89-83 win – after scoring 57 second-half points – in the Big East quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Falls scored 23 points for the Irish (24-6 overall, 12-5 Big East) on 7-of-17 shooting, with all of those shots coming from beyond the arc. The 17 three-point attempts set a Big East tournament record.

“I just think, spacing wise, I got a lot of clean looks,” Falls said.

Senior guard Russell Carter also lit it up from outside, hitting four threes and scoring 24 points to help keep Syracuse (22-10, 11-7) off balance.

Irish coach Mike Brey said he wasn’t concerned that Notre Dame – which shot 13-of-34 from 3-point land as a team – took so many jump shots against the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense.

“You’ve got to let your guys shoot,” he said. “To beat that system … you have to make some shots. That’s the thing that sets the table.”

Inside the 3-point arc, freshman Luke Harangody battled for 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the floor and 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

“[Freshman point guard] Tory Jackson got inside the zone and [sophomore forward] Zach Hillesland and [junior forward] Rob Kurz on the high post got me some good lucks and I just tried to make the best of it,” Harangody said.

Notre Dame was deadly from the free throw line, hitting 22-of-26 from the charity stripe, including 12-of-14 in the last two minutes of the game.

The Orange, on the other hand, struggled at the line, making just 16-of-29 attempts. Forward Terrence Roberts had an especially bad afternoon, going 0-for-6.

Roberts made up for his poor free throw shooting in other areas of his play. He scored 10 points and dragged down 20 rebounds.

The teams traded baskets for most of the early going, with six lead changes in the first six minutes. With 14 minutes left in the first half, however, Orange guard Paul Harris took over, scoring seven straight points to give his team a 20-14 lead. His teammates continued the run from there, extending the lead to 26-16 with 7:52 left in the half.

But the Irish would not go quietly. Aided by three Syracuse turnovers, Notre Dame went on a 13-2 run of its own, capped by a 3-pointer from Falls, to take a 29-28 lead with 4:54 before the break.

The Orange bounced back with six straight points of their own, but another three by Falls with 10 seconds before the break cut Syracuse’s advantage to 34-32 at halftime.

The Irish exploded offensively after the half. They scored 11 of the first 16 points after the break, jumping out to a 43-39 lead with 16:08 left, then extended the lead to 51-42 on threes by Falls and Jackson.

The Orange climbed back into it with a 9-2 run on the backs of 3-pointers by forward Demetris Nichols and guard Eric Devendorf to pull within two, but the Irish responded with yet another burst – this time 12-4 – to go back up by 10, at 65-55, with 10 minutes left.

Notre Dame kept the lead around 10 for the next seven minutes, but the Orange switched to a full court press and appeared poised to mount a comeback until Falls abruptly ended their momentum with his three with two minutes left.

The Irish closed out the game with free throws down the stretch.


uNotre Dame moves on to play the top seed in the Big East tournament, No. 9 Georgetown, tonight at 7 p.m in the semifinals. The Hoyas beat Villanova Thursday 62-57 and defeated the Irish 66-48 in Washington, D.C. Jan. 6.

“Last time, they whipped us,” Carter said of the teams’ previous game. “It’s a tough challenge, but we’re going to be up to it.”