The conditions were ripe for an upset. While most of the Irish students still made the game, the snowstorm kept many of the South Bend "townie-zanies" home, thus neutralizing Notre Dame's huge home court advantage. Fortunately, St. Mary, whose Notre Dame grotto was dedicated on the miraculous feast day of Our Lady of the Snows, interceeded long enough to see the Irish score an improbable 81-74 overtime triumph.
After running out to an early double digit lead, the Irish were caught off guard by Providence's double-teaming of Irish star shooting guard Kyle McAlarney, and Notre Dame had to rally to take a 32-31 halftime lead. The home Domers again seemed in control in the second half as their aggressive defense at one point had the firing Friars shooting a horrible 4-for-26 from beyond the 3-point line. Still, poor Irish rebounding on the defensive end, which led to an incredible 22 Friar offensive rebounds, meant Notre Dame could never extend their second half lead beyond eight.
And then, with nothing to lose, Providence pulled out all the stops. Instead of pulling up for contested college-range 3-pointers, the Friars began pulling up for shots way beyond NBA 3-point range—and making them! Suddenly with under a minute to go, the Irish found themselves down 61-59, with surprising Providence big-man Ray Hall at the line with a chance to extend their lead.
But, alas, Hall, who despite starting his first college game ever scored four big inside baskets against the experienced Luke Harangody, was not up to this task. After making his first two free throws, Hall missed eight straight, including these two crucial shots, and the Irish still had a chance. But when Ryan Ayers' wide open 3-pointer with 19 seconds left clanked off the front rim and into the hands of a waiting Friar defender, it appeared the game, and winning streak, was over.
But somehow, Harangody stole an ill-advised Providence pass, put the ball up, and was fouled. Cool hand Luke calmly strolled to the line, sunk both free throws, and the game went into overtime.
Even though the Irish scored 20 in the extra session, the game still wasn't decided until the closing seconds. Threes by Ayers, Rob Kunz, and inside baskets by Harangody and Tory Jackson, had the Irish up 9 with less than a minute to go, but two monster 3s by Friars Brian McKenzie from at least 35 feet brought Providence back to within three with under thirty seconds to go. But Tory Jackson sunk 3-of-4 free throws to seal the decision, as the Irish survived and kept the streak alive.
Harangody with a career-high 31 points (including 9-of-10 from the line) to go along with 14 rebounds, was clearly the hero, but on a night when tough double-teaming held McAlarney out of double digit scoring (Kyle finished with 8 points on 3-for-11 shooting), Jackson's 14 points and 7 assists deserve honorable mention. The Irish go for 33 in a row at home Saturday night when Harangody and his mates host the DePaul Blue Demons. Hopefully, Harangody won't have to carry the whole load Saturday, as he did Thursday, a night when he did everything the writer of this Fighting Irish site could ask for ... in fact so perfect was Luke, I'm tempted to put him on my other site as well ...
A Huckabee-Harangody ticket, anyone? You'll never find two nicer, harder-working guys (with funny sounding names that begin with "H") anywhere on this planet, so it just might work ...