Big East Wednesday Recap: Welcome Back, Mr. Harangody

    
March 11th, 2010
Luke Harangody was a First Team All-Big East selection and it was an honor that many questioned this week due primarily to his knee injury. The senior played just eleven minutes in Saturday's regular season finale at Marquette and the question of many was whether or not his return would hamper the surging Irish in their quest for an NCAA Tournament bid. Well, you got your answer. Harangody came off the bench to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds, essentially being the difference-maker in Notre Dame's 68-54 win over Seton Hall. Next up is two-seed Pittsburgh, a team they beat in their lone regular season meeting (68-53 in South Bend on February 24th.

"Luke coming off the bench- the most important three days of practice for us was Sunday, Monday and Tuesday because we could get Luke back in [an even better] rhythm," said head coach Mike Brey. Thanks in large part to Harangody the Irish were a plus-21 in bench points (24-3) and a plus-10 on the boards (40-30). Seton Hall also shot just 2-for-16 from beyond the arc and 34.5% overall for the game; Jeremy Hazell led the way with 15 points but he needed sixteen shots (making just five) to do so. A turning point for the Pirates was when Herb Pope picked up his third foul with 2:30 left in the first half. Over the ensuing 9:59 the Irish increased their lead from five (24-19) to sixteen (44-28) points and the game was essentially over.

As for why Pope was in the game head coach Bobby Gonzalez felt he had to with Notre Dame beginning to assert their will on the game. "Well, basically the game was getting away from us," said Gonzalez. "We had to. I felt that if I hadn't put him in, we might be down 15 at the half and we may not be in the game. We couldn't get a rebound." And as a result Seton Hall has to play the waiting game, paying close attention to the scores of games involving other teams perceived to be on the bubble while also making their case to anyone who will listen. And Coach Brey gave the masses a little advice in regards to the science of bracketology as well.

"You know what; right now nobody is going to talk about Seton Hall. Just give it a few days. Keep Seton Hall on the board...I know everybody kneejerks. Give it two days and come back as look at the big picture."

Georgetown 69, USF 49
No other way to describe this as a routine victory for Georgetown, outclassing a team that if not for a Shawn Noriega three in the game's final minute would have gone two games without a bonus shot. Greg Monroe and Jason Clark scored sixteen points apiece while Chris Wright added fifteen, advancing the Hoyas to their third meeting of the year (and 12th in the Big East Tournament) with top-seeded Syracuse. Dominique Jones led all scorers with 21 points but made just six of eighteen shots from the field. The Hoyas were able to make him work offensively and as a team USF shot just 29.1% from the floor. For the two games USF managed to score just seven points that didn't involve either the paint or the foul line. And when you combine that with Georgetown making seven of fourteen from beyond the arc it's easy to figure out why the Hoyas won.

Marquette 59, St. John's 57
Another close game and another close win for the Golden Eagles, who will now face Villanova in the quarterfinal round for the second consecutive season. Marquette held on for dear life against a tough St. John's squad that played the better basketball of the two teams in the final twenty minutes. Lazar Hayward led all scorers with 20 points while David Cubillan and Maurice Acker added eleven and ten, respectively. The Red Storm dominated points off turnovers (18-8), points in the paint (40-20) and second-chance points (15-2) but because of the ten-point hole they dug themselves in the first half they couldn't pull off the comeback. D.J. Kennedy and Sean Evans scored 12 points apiece and Paris Horne ten for St. John's.

"Not that I'm old, but I always trust our players to tell me the truth about other players," said Marquette head coach Buzz Williams. "And if you were to ask out players who is the hardest-playing team in the league, they would tell you St. John's." Marquette now gets to play for a measure of revenge against the Wildcats, who not only won both meetings by two points but also knocked them out of the Big East Tournament at the buzzer last season. Reggie Redding hit a cutting Dwayne Anderson with the pass that led to Anderson's game-winning layup as time expired. Another classic? That's definitely a possibility.

Cincinnati 69, Louisville 66
It didn't look good for the Cincinnati Bearcats at the half, shooting 28% from the field while also giving up 41 points. But the one stat that happened to be a byproduct of their poor shooting- rebounding- ended up being one of the areas that brought them back from said deficit to win in the final game of the night. The difference between halves: Mick Cronin's team went back to attacking the basket and they were able to take full advantage of the paint points as a result. "Guys did a great job in the second half," said Cronin. "We ended up with 40 points in the paint. We get the ball in the paint, we get it on the rim, [and] we can rebound the ball."

Yancy Gates led the way with 16 points but the most impressive stat is that five Bearcats had at least five rebounds apiece (Jaquon Parker had a team-high nine) and another two had four. The Bearcats finished the night with a 54-33 edge on the glass and 17-6 in second-chance points. Edgar Sosa led all scorers with 28 points (also led Louisville with six rebounds) but Deonta Vaughn stripped the senior of the basketball as he attempted the game-tying shot just before time expired to preserve the comeback victory. Cincy also received the reward of foul shots in their attacking the basket; they were a plus-7 in points from the foul line (15-8). As a result of the win Mick Cronin will take on another mentor, Bob Huggins, in Thursday's final quarterfinal of the day.

Thursday's Schedule

Noon #8 Georgetown vs. #1 Syracuse
This is the rivalry that helped shape the Big East, and with this being a noon tip this will likely be a truly packed house at the start. They've played twice with the Orange winning both: a blowout at the Carrier Dome after the Hoyas jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and a close finish at the Verizon Center in which the Orange jumped out to a sizeable edge before holding on in the end. For John Thompson III what the Hoyas have to do is rather simple. "We just have to come out and execute at both ends of the floor," commented Thompson after their win over USF. But with players such as Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins (among others) to deal with that's easier said than done. Will Georgetown have their legs with this being their second game in as many days? It's vital that they come out and establish themselves early against the Big East's best team.

2 PM #5 Marquette vs. #4 Villanova
These two have quite the recent history; the Wildcats won two-point games in both meetings and they also knocked the Golden Eagles out of last season's Big East Tournament with a layup as time expired. Jay Wright's squad is among the deepest in the nation and with Marquette not having the luxury of such numbers staying out of foul trouble will be a key for them. Taylor King (personal reasons) has been cleared to play by Coach Wright, and as a team Villanova has to avoid giving away points via the foul line. They're among worst in the nation in regards to fouls committed per game; their aggressive style of play can get them into trouble at times and lead to an imbalance in foul shots. If Scottie Reynolds and the rest of the backcourt can control the game Villanova can use their depth, but don't be surprised if this one goes down to the wire. 12 of Marquette's 19 Big East games have been decided by three points or less.

7 PM #7 Notre Dame vs. #2 Pittsburgh
Given how well Notre Dame played in the lone regular season meeting without Harangody, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Irish took out the Panthers for a second time. Pittsburgh didn't attack the basket enough in that game, netting just seven foul shots to eighteen for Notre Dame. While guys such as Ashton Gibbs can shoot the bonus shot Jamie Dixon's team needs to attack the rim and keep the foul shot numbers close to even if they're to advance. Gilbert Brown was 0-for-5 from behind the arc; he's better served using his athleticism to attack the rim. Tim Abromaitis scored seventeen in that victory for Notre Dame and Tory Jackson also had a good game at the point. This one likely boils down to how well the Panthers execute offensively.

9 PM #11 Cincinnati vs. #3 West Virginia
Teacher versus pupil, part two for Mick Cronin as he takes on Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers in the final game of the night. Rebounding will determine the outcome as both are good offensive rebounding teams. WVU had the advantage on the boards in the second half of their regular season meeting and as a result they were able to take care of the Bearcats in Morgantown. Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks provide their own set of challenges for any defense not counting the offensive rebounds, and WVU's length on both ends could be an issue for Cincinnati.

Picks
Syracuse over Georgetown
Marquette over Villanova
Pittsburgh over Notre Dame
West Virginia over Cincinnati