Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Maui Wowi

AP Photo/ Chris Carlson

Please forgive the horrible pun but if you caught any of the Irish vs. Longhorns Maui Invitational semi-final game earlier tonight you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Notre Dame survived a late scare from the Longhorns after two missed free throws by Luke Harangody with 3.5 seconds left provided Texas' A.J. Abrams with an opportuntiy to win the game. His half court attempt fell short and the Irish prevailed, 81-80.

The game featured the young and talented Longhorns (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) and a mature and experienced Irish (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) team. Both teams entered undefeated and looking for their first marquee win on the young season.

Behind a typical double-double performance by Harangody (29 points, 13 rebounds) and stellar 3-point shooting (11 for 24), Notre Dame secured its first ever slot in the championship game of the Maui Invitational where they will face off against the #1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

Here's hoping the Irish wake up the echoes of the famous 1987 match up between the then ranked #1 Tar Heels and Fighting Irish:

Part I

Part II

In the first round of the Maui Invitational the Irish manhandled the rebuilding Indiana Hoosiers, 88-50 and Texas took care of its first round foe, the St Joseph's Hawks 68-50, setting the stage for tonight's heavyweight match up.

Both teams battled back and forth in this one, with neither one pulling away from the other. the Largest lead came with just under 3 minutes remaining in the game as Harangody made a layup to extend the Irish lead to 75-67.

Kyle McAlarney finished with 19 points off of 5-6 shooting from behind the arc and Tory Jackson added 16 points on top of 7 assists for the Irish.

This was certainly a signature win that will help when it comes time for NCAA Tournament seeding, but it didn't come without a few mishaps. 

Notre Dame failed to box out throughout the majority of the game, leaving the Longhorns with several second chance opportunities. Free throw shooting was also an area of concern, as the Irish missed 6 of their final 8 attempts from the charity stripe during the last minute of game time.

Regardless, this will be one of the most important games for the Irish this season. A win would make a statement that the Irish are serious Final Four contenders, while a loss could lead to any number of questions about the potential of this team to compete with the upper echelon in the NCAA.

It's the match up columnists and basketball fans have dreamt about since the field for the tournament was revealed last year: Harangody vs. Hansbrough. Bruiser vs. Bruiser. Lights out shooting vs. fast-break mania. Pure shooting vs. Pure athleticism.

Tune in tomorrow at 10pm EST on ESPN to see what could possibly be the most exciting game of the young season.

Go Irish!

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