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Men’s Basketball: Philadelphia flyers

Fran Tolan | Monday, January 28, 2008

Junior guard Kyle McAlarney scored 30 points and Notre Dame held off a late rally by No. 18 Villanova Saturday for a 90-80 victory, its first Big East road win of the season.

The Irish were blown out in their first two conference road games against Marquette and Georgetown but were in control for most of the contest against the Wildcats.

“I think we’ve learned how to play on the road a little bit the past two games,” McAlarney said. “We took those two losses to heart. We didn’t want that to happen to us again.”

Notre Dame led comfortably for most of the second half, but Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds drove to the basket for an easy layup with 49 seconds left to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 84-78.

On the next Irish possession, junior forward Ryan Ayers broke the Wildcats full-court press, which had been suffocating throughout the second half. Ayers found an open Luke Harangody under the basket for an easy dunk and a lead the Irish would not relinquish.

“They were pressing hard and they cut it to six when I got that last dunk so that was a big play,” Harangody said. “Ryan was able to get the ball up-court and that was a big play for us.”

The dunk was one of several second-half slams for the sophomore forward, who had one over Villanova forward Dante Cunningham three minutes earlier. Harangody received a pass from senior Rob Kurz and put it in despite being fouled by Cunningham. Cunningham fouled out on the play, and Harangody converted the free throw to put the Irish ahead 76-62.

“That was a big part of the game,” Harangody said. “Rob gave me a great pass and luckily I was able to finish.”

Irish coach Mike Brey said Harangody’s presence allowed the Irish to spread out the Wildcats defense.

“We were able to play inside-out off of Harangody,” Brey said. “When we can do that, we’re really pretty good and can play with just about anybody.”

Harangody finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds. But while the big man’s play was the key to holding off Villanova’s late charge, the Irish built the lead behind McAlarney’s sweet shooting. The junior guard was 10-of-16 from the field and 5-of-9 on 3-point attempts.

“I was aggressive the whole game,” McAlarney said. “I didn’t want to turn down any shots. I just wanted to go for it.”

McAlarney said he enjoyed playing at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center, which has an NBA-length 3-point line as well as a college line. He made several jumpers from behind the professional arc.

“Not too many other people can step out that far,” McAlarney said. “It’s kind of a challenge for me … to keep stepping back.”

The Irish gave up 80 points but held Reynolds, the reigning Big East player of the week, to 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

“He got some buckets at the end of the game but I thought we did a great job on him,” Harangody said. “Going into the game, that was probably our main concern.”

Kurz scored 12 points and Ayers chipped in 10 points off the bench for the Irish. Sophomore point guard Tory Jackson added nine points and seven assists while committing just two turnovers.

“Everyone did their job and that’s what we need to get those big wins,” McAlarney said. “Everyone contributed and that’s really what we need down the road.”