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March 22, 2008DENVER-One game away from their first trip to the Sweet 16 in five years, Notre Dame (25-8) came up short.
Short by about a mile high in Denver.
Shooting just 24.0 percent for the game-the lowest figure in the Mike Brey era-No. 5 seed Notre Dame cut a 16-point deficit to seven in the second half, but quickly faded away down the stretch en route to a 61-41 loss to No. 4 seed Washington State
Washington State, ranked third nationally in points allowed per game, limited Notre Dame's No. 15 scoring offense to its lowest output of the season-by 23 points. Even more shocking was the fact that Notre Dame scored 39 points under its average.
The Cougars advance to the Sweet 16 in Charlotte, N.C., where they will play the winner of Sunday's North Carolina-Arkansas game.
"They imposed their will on us," said Irish head coach Mike Brey. "I'm disappointed it wasn't a better basketball game. The knockout punch came early."
Washington State has now held Winthrop and Notre Dame to 17-of-78 shooting in its last three halves.
"We did what we needed to do. We made it our kind of game, and it started with our transition defense," said Washington State head coach Tony Bennett.
"We didn't yield. We didn't let them get easy shots. We made them earn all night, and if we can do that, we're always in good shape. This is a big step for our program."
It was a rough night for all the Irish, in particular, Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody. Although Harangody became the first Irish player in five years to grab as many as 20 rebounds in a game-Harangody had 22- he made just 3-of-17 shots and finished with 10 points-10 under his average.
"I feel like I let the guys down," Harangody said. "It just wasn't my night."
Notre Dame also made just 3-of-17 from three-point range. Kyle McAlarney was just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc. Notre Dame's sharp-shooting super-subs-Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller-were a combined 0-for-4 from three-point range.
"Of the 17 three-point shots, I thought 12 of those were good looks," Brey said. "We're going to have to make a couple more of those to feel good about ourselves at halftime.
A 9-0 early in the second half would pull the Irish to within seven-38-31-with 13:55 remaining. But Washington State would score 16 of the next 20 points to take a 54-35 lead with under eight minutes left.
"We went on a little run in the second half due to our rebounding and transition game," said Kyle McAlarney, who made just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc and finished with a team-high 12 points. "But we can't get out in transition if we can't get stops."
Washington State guard Derrick Low, who led Washington with 18 points, sensed Notre Dame's frustration.
"It seemed like they were just trying to rush into the post and throw up some shots," Low said. "I thought that was a sign of frustration on their part."
Prior to the game, Bennett showed his players a picture that his wife had taken of the scoreboard prior to Washington State's second round NCAA tournament loss to Vanderbilt last year.
"I said, "I love that! I think I can use that!" Bennett said. "I showed them (the picture) and I said, 'You were in this spot last year. What can you do better to get us one step further?'
"After the game, I ripped it up in front of them and said, 'You did it.'"
Kyle Weaver added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Cougars. Robbie Cowgill tossed in 12 on 6-of-7 shooting.
Notre Dame, the top assist team in the country with an 18.9 average, managed just seven assists-a season low.
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