BIG EAST: Harangody gives Fighting Irish much needed lift

David Cassilo



Losing seven-straight games put a once promising Notre Dame team in a state of desperation when it welcomed Louisville to South Bend on Feb. 12. Without a win to add some legitimacy to their tournament résumé, Notre Dame could effectively resign itself to a lost season. However, its leader, junior forward Luke Harangody, put the team on his back and delivered arguably his best performance of the season.

In what turned out to be a 90-57 victory for the Fighting Irish, Harangody scored a season-high 32 points and also tied a career-high with 17 rebounds. The performance came on the heels of what may have been the worst game of Harangody’s career when he finished with just five points and one rebound on Feb. 7 at UCLA. It was the first time he did not reach double figures in points and rebounds since Nov. 16, 2007, against Monmouth.

Harangody followed his game against Louisville with another strong performance in a 67-57 victory against South Florida. He finished the day with 19 points and 11 rebounds in what was his 12th straight double-double in Big East games.

So far this season, Harangody has amassed some gaudy numbers as he leads the conference in points and is second in rebounds. If he can finish the season as strong as he has started it, he may be honored with his second consecutive Big East Player of the Year award.



After losing their No. 1 ranking in a loss to Louisville on Jan. 17, the Pittsburgh Panthers have been looking to prove to the rest of the country that they still deserve a chance to be considered the nation’s best team. With their 76-68 victory over UConn in Hartford on Feb. 16, the Panthers delivered the statement they were looking for.

The game was supposed to be a showcase between two of the conference’s most talented big men, but Pittsburgh sophomore forward DeJuan Blair dominated UConn junior center Hasheem Thabeet from the opening tip. Blair was a menace in the paint as he scored 22 points and brought down 23 rebounds. Meanwhile, Thabeet was nonexistent, finishing with just five points and four rebounds. He spent much of the second half on the bench in foul trouble.

The big victory for Pittsburgh came after tough win on Feb. 14, when they knocked off Cincinnati 85-69. The Bearcats came into the contest as one of the hottest teams in the conference, winning five of their last six. However, they were no match for an elite team like Pittsburgh, who showed why they are so incredibly tough to beat, especially at home.

If Pitt wins is last game, the Panthers will finish the season with a perfect record at the Petersen Events Center. That last game will be a rematch versus UConn on Mar. 7. It will be the last regular season game for both teams and could decide who wins the Big East regular-season crown.



The Georgetown Hoyas almost came away with what could have been a season-saving victory against Syracuse on Saturday, but in the end, even their most furious of comebacks was not enough. The loss became their seventh in eight games and things have progressed from bad to desperate for the Hoyas.

Now, sitting toward the bottom of the conference standings, time is running out for the Hoyas to make any sort of late run at postseason play. Their upcoming schedule presents them with three prime opportunities to strengthen their case, as they will host Marquette on Saturday and Louisville on Monday, before traveling to Villanova to take on the Wildcats the following Saturday. Even with these chances on the horizon, it may take a win in all three to add some legitimacy to their tournament résumé. If this does not happen, Georgetown may miss any sort of postseason tournament, let alone the NCAA Tournament.

The Hoyas have been one of the more puzzling teams this season. They opened up Big East play with a win at UConn, which is only one of two games the Huskies have lost all season. Following the win, expectations were raised for Georgetown, but the group led by senior forward DaJuan Summers and freshman center Greg Monroe failed to live up to the hype, dropping eight of their next 11 conference games. If the Hoyas do not start winning soon, they may need to play all five days in New York to make it back to their third-straight Big East Championship.



It may not have the sizzle that other Big East matchups do, but time is running out to start making a case for the NCAA Tournament, and this game between two bubble teams on Saturday may have larger ramifications.

Providence has perhaps been the biggest surprise in the conference, as they found themselves as high as fifth place just two weeks ago. Despite its success, they lack many marquee wins with their biggest three victories coming against Cincinnati twice and once versus Syracuse. While Notre Dame no longer qualifies as a marquee win, the victory would eliminate some possible competition for a postseason bid.

Surprisingly, the Fighting Irish enter the contest with the worse conference record, but after what they did to Louisville last week, there is no question about their level of talent.

Harangody appears to be on a mission to do everything possible to get his team back into postseason contention, and Providence must be able to find an answer to him if they want to continue a surprise run into March.

It will take several big ones on their remaining schedules to get either team into the NCAA Tournament and because of that, their game Saturday will serve as the first step toward that goal for one of these teams.