Irish Rewind: Defense delivers as Notre Dame knocks off No. 8 West Virginia

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — One senior who has played plenty of college basketball for Notre Dame knew a fellow veteran who has made his share of big shots for West Virginia would try to do it again.

So with time winding down Saturday against No. 8 West Virginia at a raucous Purcell Pavilion, Notre Dame guard Tory Jackson sought out Da’Sean Butler.

Jackson was able to defend and distract Butler just enough to agitate him on a potential game-winning 3-pointer, and the Irish held on for a 70-68 victory.

“I wanted to (guard him) so bad,” Jackson said afterward. “Even after the game, I told him he can’t get that one over me. We’re really, really cool. He knew I was going to be guarding him.”

Notre Dame saw an advantage that it held for the previous 38-plus minutes trimmed to one just under five minutes earlier. What had been a 21-point lead was at two in the closing seconds.

Part of that stemmed from the fact that the Irish were limited to one basket in the final 14:52. Part of it was that West Virginia hit 3 after 3 after 3 and also dialed up the defensive pressure. No matter the reason, the Mountaineers had possession with 8.2 seconds left.

Butler, who had beaten Marquette last month with a similar shot in a similar spot, went to work. He rose and with Jackson’s hand in his face, let it go. The shot rolled around, went halfway down, jumped out, looked like it still would fall before sliding off the rim.

"I almost had a heart attack," Jackson said. "It was good for it to roll around because it took a little more time off."

Butler made four of his 20 shots for 13 points.

"He's made shots like that before," said Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins, who spoke barely above a whisper afterward. "It almost went in."

Unable to get anything going offensively in the second half, Notre Dame had to find other ways to get points. The over-aggressive Mountaineers helped out. The Irish jumped into the bonus on West Virginia's seventh foul with 9:34 remaining. A parade to the foul line followed. Notre Dame finished 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) from the free throw line. West Virginia was 2-of-4.

"We shoot four free throws; they shoot 24," Huggins said. "How are you going to win?"

From the 11:18 mark of the second half to two Luke Harangody tosses at 5:17, the Irish were 13-of-16 from the foul line. Over that same span, West Virginia never visited the line.

"The only shots we were getting were from the foul line," said Tim Abromaitis, who had 17 points, eight rebounds and hit all six of his free throws. "It was important that we made those to keep the lead."

Notre Dame is 14-3 overall, 3-1 in the Big East. West Virginia is 12-2, 3-1.

The Irish fell into a zone to start that few teams ever find, even in church-league contests. Notre Dame simply couldn't miss. From anywhere. From anybody. The Irish hit from close. They hit from 3-point range. They converted off the break and were able to stay patient and grind out long possessions with equal success.

Notre Dame connected on its first nine shots to spearhead a 15-0 scoring spurt. That gave the home team a double-digit lead less than five minutes in. A Harangody jumper was the ninth consecutive bucket as the lead ballooned to 25-4, Notre Dame's largest of the half, at the 11:44 mark. The Irish finally missed a shot when an Abromaitis offering rolled halfway down before bouncing out with 10:48 remaining.

Notre Dame had 17 assists and shot 75 percent in the first half.

"I don't know if we've played 20 better minutes," said coach Mike Brey. "We were really ready to play."

Where had that effort been hiding?

"I don't know," Harangody said. "I think it's just the fact we were able to get stops and get rebounds right away and were able to push the ball. They were kind of sleeping with this late start."

Notre Dame played without junior forward Carleton Scott. The team's seventh man took an indefinite leave of absence Friday for personal reasons and was not in uniform. When and if he returns is uncertain. Brey and Scott, who agreed Friday to the leave, may meet early this week.

Freshman Joey Brooks took Scott's spot in the rotation. He played nine efficient minutes, eight in the first half. He scored five points.

"He played like a veteran out there," Brey said.

NOTRE DAME 70, WEST VIRGINIA 68

At Purcell Pavilion

WEST VIRGINIA (12-2): Da'Sean Butler 4-20 2-2 13, Devin Ebanks 0-4 0-0 0, Kevin Jones 8-11 0-0 17, Wellington Smith 3-10 0-1 8, Darryl Bryant 4-11 0-0 11, Cam Thoroughman 0-0 0-0 0, Joe Mazzulla 3-3 0-1 6, Danny Jennings 2-2 0-0 4, Dalton Pepper 2-6 0-0 6, Casey Mitchell 1-4 0-0 3, John Flowers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-72 2-4 68.

NOTRE DAME (14-3): Ty Nash 5-5 3-6 13, Tim Abromaitis 4-7 6-6 17, Luke Harangody 9-15 4-4 24, Tory Jackson 1-7 3-4 5, Ben Hansbrough 2-4 1-4 6, Jonathan Peoples 0-2 0-0 0, Joey Brooks 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 23-43 17-24 70.

Halftime - Notre Dame 45-25. 3-Point Goals - West Virginia 12-37 (Bryant 3-6, Butler 3-12, Smith 2-5, Pepper 2-5, Jones 1-3, Mitchell 1-4, Flowers 0-1, Ebanks 0-1), Notre Dame 7-13 (Abromaitis 3-4, Harangody 2-3, Brooks 1-1, Hansbrough 1-2, Jackson 0-3). Fouled Out - None. Rebounds - West Virginia 39 (Jones 10), Notre Dame 32 (Hansbrough 9). Assists - West Virginia 19 (Flowers 4), Notre Dame 21 (Hansbrough 10). Total Fouls - West Virginia 19, Notre Dame 13. A - 9,149.

Each week during the college basketball season, NDI takes a look back at a memorable Irish game with a reprint of the story that appeared in the South Bend Tribune.

This week's Irish Rewind jumps back seven years ago when Notre Dame used some really good offensive efficiency in the first half and some determined defense in the second to upset No. 8 West Virginia, 70-68.

This story appeared in the Jan. 10, 2010 edition of the Tribune.

If you have a suggestion for Irish Rewind, send it to tnoie@ndinsider.com.