NEW ORLEANS — A pair of six-minute scoreless droughts in the second half doomed No. 6 Notre Dame, as the Irish fell to No. 11 Old Dominion, 51-50, in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday.
The Irish (23-12) made just 6-of-26 3-point attempts, including 2-of-12 in the second half. Junior forward Carleton Scott’s game-tying 3-point attempt rimmed out in the final seconds, and senior forward Luke Harangody’s put-back at the buzzer left the Irish a point short of the Monarchs (27-8), who will advance to the second round Saturday against either No. 3 Baylor or No. 14 Sam Houston State.
“It just sounds so simple, but we had some really clean looks. You’ve got to make some shots,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We’d been a good shooting team. It’s not like I’m saying something the percentages say we can’t do or haven’t done.”
A jumper by center Gerald Lee gave the Monarchs their final lead, 48-46, with 1:27 remaining. Harangody missed a jump shot on Notre Dame’s ensuing possession, and Lee made 1-of-2 from the line on Old Dominion’s next possession to extend the lead to three with 56 seconds to play.
Harangody’s first basket, a put-back off an offensive rebound, cut the Irish deficit to one with 12 seconds remaining. Monarchs forward Keyon Carter made a pair of free throws with nine seconds to play, and after a Notre Dame timeout, Scott barely missed a 3 from the baseline that would have tied the game. Earlier, with 1:49 remaining, Scott answered a Darius James 3-pointer to tie the game, 46-46, and break a six-minute scoring drought for the Irish.
“Those guys made a lot of clutch 3s,” Carter said. “So I thought it was going to be another scenario. I was kind of thinking overtime, but gratefully it rimmed out.
“Little help from above, I guess. Divine intervention a little bit.”
After Scott’s jumper from the free-throw line put Notre Dame up 30-22 nine seconds into the second half, the Irish were held scoreless for more than six minutes, as the Monarchs rattled off a 9-0 run to take their first lead, 31-30, since early in the first half. A layup by Scott put the Irish back up one with 13:46 to play, and neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way.
“I think it reflects the magic of March, the way the two teams battled,” Monarchs coach Blaine Taylor said. “One of the officials turns to me at the two-minute mark and said, ‘It’s been a heck of a game,’ and I really think it was.”
Senior guard Ben Hansbrough, who will return for a fifth year, led all scorers with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Scott posted 14 points and 10 rebounds and was Notre Dame’s lone scoring threat near the basket, as Harangody was held to four points — both in the final 12 seconds.
“He got the two fouls and I thought he could never really get into a flow,” Brey said of Harangody. “Also, when you’re playing against zone for long periods of time, it’s probably a little harder to establish him, you know, offensively.”
The Monarchs led 6-5 five minutes into the game, but the Irish used a 10-0 run over the
next five minutes to open a 15-6 lead. Old Dominion quickly responded with a 7-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to 15-13, but a 3 by Scott, a three-point play from junior forward Tim Abromaitis and a transition layup by Hansbrough sparked another 8-2 spurt for the Irish, who then led 23-15. Keyon Carter made Old Dominion’s first 3 of the game with 18 seconds to play in the half to cut the Notre Dame lead to 26-22, and an Abromaitis jumper closed the half with the Irish up 28-22.
Notre Dame outshot and out-rebounded the Monarchs in the first half. Old Dominion was 10-for-29 (34.5 percent) from the field and 1-for-8 (12.5 percent) from 3-point range in the first half. The Irish held a 21-14 rebounding edge at intermission while shooting 11-for-27 (40.7 percent) from the field and 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range in the opening half.
But in the second half, the Monarchs heated up while the Irish cooled down. Old Dominion made 52.6 percent of its field goals in the second half and knocked down 4-of-10 3-point attempts. Notre Dame shot 31.3 percent from the field and made only 2-of-12 3-pointers in the second half.