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Harangody powers Notre Dame into second round

Mar 21, 2008 - 4:45 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Notre Dame would not fall victim to an upset for the second straight season.

Luke Harangody had 18 points and 14 rebounds and Kyle McAlarney chipped in 13 points as the fifth-seeded Fighting Irish cruised past 12th-seeded George Mason, 66-50, in a first-round matchup out of the East Regional on Thursday.

Ryan Ayers added 12 points for the Irish (25-7), who had lost to Winthrop as a six seed in the first round last year.

"This is a whole new basketball team," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We're a very different basketball team than the one that lost in the first round. I thought we did a good job understanding the tempo and then getting low post touches in a halfcourt offense. We didn't give up hardly anything in transition, which was really good, too."

Notre Dame will face Washington State, which defeated Winthrop earlier, in the second round on Saturday.

The Irish created some separation early, using a 17-0 run - capped by a 3-pointer by Luke Zeller - to take a 23-7 bulge with 12:14 left to play in the first half.

"They (Notre Dame) were very, very sharp defensively early," George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. "We had a hard time getting started offensively. And then what really hurt us is they went on that little run where they hit three threes in a row and got a lot of separation. I think in any game like this, the team that is constantly having to make the adjustments, they're the ones at the disadvantage."

Notre Dame continued to keep George Mason at a distance, holding the Patriots to 33 percent shooting (9-of-27) as the Irish held a 33-21 advantage at the break.

"I thought our defense really for the game was the story of it," Brey said. "To hold them to 21 points in the first half and 50 for the game, I think was the story line of the game."

George Mason (23-11) never cut the deficit to single digits for the rest of the contest, trailing by as many as 55-36 with 10:32 remaining.

Senior Will Thomas, who was a starter for the Patriots when they reached the Final Four in 2006, led the way for George Mason with 25 points and seven rebounds.

Leading scorer Folarin Campbell scored just four points on 1-of-12 shooting from the floor and the Patriots made just 3-of-17 from the arc.

"They played great defense," Campbell said. "You know, they put a bigger guy on me, made it hard for me to get the ball. Every time I shot, it was contested. The lanes were packed. They just played tremendous defense."

Campbell was also a key member in the Patriots' memorable run to the national semifinal in 2006 and - along with Thomas - has played in his last game.

"I knew two years ago we were doing something very, very special," Larranaga said. "In fact, I tell the players all the time, this is the greatest time in your life, I think. If you're in college basketball, this is fun.

"These three seniors, Jordan (Carter), Folarin and Will, they're all going to graduate very soon, in May or June ... To know how much they've given to me, to our program, to our university, is immeasurable."