Notre Dame 68, Seton Hall 56

With a healthy Luke Harangody back in top form, Notre Dame

stopped Seton Hall in its run-and-gun tracks to take another big

step toward the NCAA tournament.

Harangody had 20 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and the

Fighting Irish shut down Seton Hall’s high-octane offense for a

68-56 victory in the second round of the Big East tournament

Wednesday night.

“The microwave was ready to go tonight,” Notre Dame coach Mike

Brey said about the instant offense Harangody provided as a

reserve. “It was not anything anybody in this room hasn’t

seen.”

Tory Jackson added 13 points and six assists for the Fighting

Irish (22-10) in a game with significant NCAA implications. Notre

Dame, riding a five-game winning streak at just the right time,

plays second-seeded and No. 16 Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals

Thursday night.

The seventh-seeded Irish started their surge with 68-53 victory

over then-No. 12 Pittsburgh on Feb. 24.

Notre Dame improved to 6-14 in the Big East tournament and ended

a three-game winning streak for No. 10 seed Seton Hall (19-12),

which nearly blew a 29-point second-half lead before holding off

Providence 109-106 Tuesday night.

Unable to improve their resume this week, the Pirates must wait

until Sunday to find out if they’ve done enough to sneak into the

NCAAs.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, probably solidified its spot.

“There’s no doubt we can beat somebody if we go to the NCAA

tournament. No doubt. And especially with some rest,” Seton Hall

coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “I think we should be on the board. I

think all this talk about the bubble has burst and now we’re out

and we’re done and we lost and that’s it and it’s over, I don’t

think people know what they’re talking about. I don’t think they

have a clue. I think they listen to what everybody else says and

they repeat what they hear.”

Harangody, who entered as the nation’s second-leading scorer at

23.3 points per game, was injured in a 90-87 loss at Seton Hall on

Feb. 11. The senior forward missed five games with a badly bruised

right knee and the Irish lost the first two by a combined three

points before reeling off three straight surprising wins without

him.

He had five points and two rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench

Saturday in Notre Dame’s 63-60 overtime win at Marquette, but

looked much more like himself in this one.

“The last couple of days of practice have been great for me,

just to get back in the flow. Kind of get my conditioning back up

to where it has been,” Harangody said. “I feel right now that I

started to get a little bit of swagger I had before the injury, a

little more of the confidence. I feel great with the guys out

there.”

Harangody ran the floor well for fast-break dunks and scored

several easy baskets down low. After entering 3:15 into the game,

he finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in 15 first-half

minutes as Notre Dame turned an 11-2 deficit into a 28-21 lead at

the break.

“I think he is back in his rhythm at a very key time,” Brey

said.

With about 4:45 left in the half, Jackson dived toward the

sideline by press row and slapped a loose ball to a streaking

Harangody, who scored and drew a foul on the play. Fired up by his

own hustle, Jackson screamed in delight.

The Irish scored the first seven points of the second half, five

by Jackson, and never let up. With 11:37 to go, Ben Hansbrough

looked directly at his defender, Jordan Theodore, and said,

“C’mon, baby” before driving right by for a layup that gave Notre

Dame its largest lead, 44-28.

“It was our tempo,” Brey said.

Led by Harangody, selected to the all-Big East first team for

the third consecutive year, Notre Dame’s bench outscored Seton

Hall’s reserves 24-3.

Jeremy Hazell had 15 points for the Pirates, who needed

garbage-time baskets at the end to barely surpass the 55 points

they scored in the first half Tuesday night.

Seton Hall went 2 for 16 from 3-point range and fell 25 points

below its season average of 81.3 per game, which ranked fourth in

the Big East.

“Not an excuse, certainly, but I thought this was the most

tired I’ve seen our team the entire year,” Gonzalez said. “We

just didn’t have our legs. It shows how important the bye is and

how important the regular season is.”