Harangody’s 30 lead Notre Dame past Kentucky
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—By the time Jodie Meeks got going for Kentucky, Notre Dame was all but packing its bags for New York.
The Irish were up by 15 points before Meeks made his second basket, on just his fourth shot with 12:18 left in the game, and the Irish survived a 17-5 run late by the Wildcats to end a 10-game losing streak to Kentucky with a 77-67 victory Wednesday night to advance to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals.
“They did a great job of guarding him,” Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said. “You think about what he’s been through all season, as far as the physical stress, the mental stress, he’s handled it well.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said the Irish (21-14) threw a variety of defenders at Meeks, who finished with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, although Ryan Ayers had the most success against Meeks.
“He only had three shots in the first half,” Brey said. “But a guy like that, he got going a little bit in the second half. But overall I thought we did a really good job.”
Kentucky, meanwhile, had no answer for Luke Harangody, who had 30 points and 11 rebounds.
“He was pretty much scoring all over the court,” said Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson, who guarded Harangody.
Kentucky (22-14) cut the lead to 67-62 on a slam dunk by Perry Stevenson with 2:42 left. But the Irish were 8-of-8 from the free-throw line over the final 1:29 to end the game on a 10-5 run to hang on.
“We’re all super excited,” said Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney, who added 15 points. “This was our goal coming into the NIT. We put all the talk about us getting to the NCAAs way behind us and we focused on getting back to New York.”
The Irish, who hit 12 3-pointers in the win, will face Penn State (25-11) Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
A large number of Kentucky fans, including its pep band, made the trip to South Bend, which is about 325 miles away from Lexington. It appeared about a quarter of the 7,636 fans were wearing Kentucky blue. When Meeks hit a pair of 3-pointers midway through the second half to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 52-41, the Kentucky fans started chanted “Go big blue.”
They were quickly drown out by Notre Dame fans chanting: “Let’s go Irish.”
“They brought their band and cheerleaders like a high school game,” Harangody said. “It was kind of fun, the fans going back and forth. It was neat. It was a good crowd.”
The scene was reminiscent of when red-clad Nebraska fans filled about a third of Notre Dame Stadium for a football game in 2000 and chanted: “Husker, home game!”
It was Notre Dame’s first win over the Wildcats since an 80-67 victory in 1990 during Rick Pitino’s first year as Kentucky coach.
Gillispie now returns to Lexington with many fans wondering about his future. Gillispie said the speculation about his job security wasn’t a distraction.
“I do one thing. I always stay focused. I take care of my task at hand,” he said. “That’s what I always have done and that’s what I will do.”
Asked about how he feels about all the judgment he’s facing after posing a 40-27 record in two seasons at Kentucky, Gillispie said: “There’s only one judgment I’ll ever be concerned about, and I hope I pass that judgment. That’s the only one I’ll ever be concerned about, and I’m really proud that that’s the only judgment that will ever have a real affect on me, and I hope I pass that one with flying colors.”
Gillispie declined to answer when asked whose judgment he was referring to, saying it was obvious.