for this game

Low, Washington State clamp down on Irish

Mar 23, 2008 - 2:41 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Luke Harangody and No. 5 seed Notre Dame found out first hand what Winthrop and the rest of the country already know: Washington State can play defense.

Derrick Low scored 18 points and the fourth-seeded Cougars clamped down on the Big East Player of the Year en route to a 61-41 victory over the Irish in the second round of the NCAA Tournament East Regional on Saturday.

The Cougars (26-8), who are headed to their first regional semifinal since 1941, will face either top-seeded North Carolina or Arkansas in Charlotte on Thursday.

Kyle Weaver added 15 points for Washington State, which punched its ticket to the "Sweet 16" with another dominating defensive performance.

"They're a very good team," said Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney, who scored 12 points. "They could go all the way. The way they played us tonight, you know, just shows.

"We were one of the best offensive teams in the country coming into this tournament. We believe that. I think they knew that. So the way they played us tonight, it just shows the rest of the country how good they really are."

The Cougars, who are third in the nation in scoring defense, held Winthrop to 11 second-half points in a 71-40 win in the first round on Thursday.

In this one, they outdid themselves by holding the Fighting Irish (25-8) to just 24.5 percent (13-of-53) from the floor and their lowest scoring output in the NCAAs in school history.

"I think for us in this tournament we have to play solid defense to be competitive and to be in games and advance," said Washington State forward Robbie Cowgill, who scored 12 points. "Coach has been telling us all year, that's got to be our ticket."

"Well, obviously we did what we needed to do," Cougars coach Tony Bennett said. "We made it our kind of game. It started with our transition defense. No question."

Bennett's team held Notre Dame to half its season average in points (80.6).

"These guys bought in at a new level tonight playing against a very talented offensive team," he said. "And each one of them stepped up in their own right and were significant. But we got the game the way we needed to get the game. We didn't yield. We didn't let them get easy shots. We made them earn all night."

Notre Dame's previous low in the NCAA Tournament came in a 51-50 loss to Brigham Young in 1981.

Harangody, who averaged 20.7 points coming in, scored just 10 points on 3-of-17 from the floor. He did manage to grab a career-high 22 rebounds, due in part to the Irish's offensive futility.

"I think you certainly take your hat off to Washington State," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "They imposed their will on us. ... I thought they played older, and they are older. Very good defensively. Smart offensively. So they certainly deserve to move on."

"You know, coming into this game, we were very confident," Harangody said. "We were ready to play. I don't think there was any doubt about that. But we faced a great Washington State team tonight. Like coach said, hats off to them. (A) very senior (laden) team."

Washington State broke open the game with a 14-2 run midway through first half and led, 32-19, at the break. It was the lowest first half total of the season for the Irish, whose previous was 25 points against Georgetown on January 19.

Harangody was double-teamed constantly, and did not make a field goal until the 9:42 mark of the first half.

"We wanted to double-team him and see how he'd handle that," Cougars center Aron Baynes said. "We watched a bit of game tape and figured that might be something that could control him. Our guys did a great job of getting in position to make it hard on him."

The Irish came out in the second half with some life as they went on a 9-0 run to pull within 38-31 on a 3-pointer by McAlarney with 13:57 remaining. However, the Cougars held Notre Dame to just one field goal over the final 7:19, and closed on a 21-10 run.

"You know, the first four minutes we had that thing going up and down a little bit, but after that we couldn't really get it moving," Brey said.