SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - By the time Jodie Meeks got going for
Kentucky, Notre Dame was all but packing its bags for New York.
The Irish were up by 15 points before Meeks made his second
basket, on just his fourth shot with 12:18 left in the game, and
the Irish survived a 17-5 run late by the Wildcats to end a 10-game
losing streak to Kentucky with a 77-67 victory Wednesday night to
advance to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals.
"They did a great job of guarding him," Kentucky coach Billy
Gillispie said. "You think about what he's been through all
season, as far as the physical stress, the mental stress, he's
handled it well."
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said the Irish (21-14) threw a
variety of defenders at Meeks, who finished with 21 points on
6-of-10 shooting, although Ryan Ayers had the most success against
"He only had three shots in the first half," Brey said. "But
a guy like that, he got going a little bit in the second half. But
overall I thought we did a really good job."
Kentucky, meanwhile, had no answer for Luke Harangody, who had
30 points and 11 rebounds.
"He was pretty much scoring all over the court," said Kentucky
forward Patrick Patterson, who guarded Harangody.
Kentucky (22-14) cut the lead to 67-62 on a slam dunk by Perry
Stevenson with 2:42 left. But the Irish were 8-of-8 from the
free-throw line over the final 1:29 to end the game on a 10-5 run
to hang on.
"We're all super excited," said Notre Dame guard Kyle
McAlarney, who added 15 points. "This was our goal coming into the
NIT. We put all the talk about us getting to the NCAAs way behind
us and we focused on getting back to New York."
The Irish, who hit 12 3-pointers in the win, will face Penn
State (25-11) Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
A large number of Kentucky fans, including its pep band, made
the trip to South Bend, which is about 325 miles away from
Lexington. It appeared about a quarter of the 7,636 fans were
wearing Kentucky blue. When Meeks hit a pair of 3-pointers midway
through the second half to cut Notre Dame's lead to 52-41, the
Kentucky fans started chanted "Go big blue."
They were quickly drown out by Notre Dame fans chanting: "Let's
"They brought their band and cheerleaders like a high school
game," Harangody said. "It was kind of fun, the fans going back
and forth. It was neat. It was a good crowd."
The scene was reminiscent of when red-clad Nebraska fans filled
about a third of Notre Dame Stadium for a football game in 2000 and
chanted: "Husker, home game!"
It was Notre Dame's first win over the Wildcats since an 80-67
victory in 1990 during Rick Pitino's first year as Kentucky coach.
Gillispie now returns to Lexington with many fans wondering
about his future. Gillispie said the speculation about his job
security wasn't a distraction.
"I do one thing. I always stay focused. I take care of my task
at hand," he said. "That's what I always have done and that's
what I will do."
Asked about how he feels about all the judgment he's facing
after posing a 40-27 record in two seasons at Kentucky, Gillispie
said: "There's only one judgment I'll ever be concerned about, and
I hope I pass that judgment. That's the only one I'll ever be
concerned about, and I'm really proud that that's the only judgment
that will ever have a real affect on me, and I hope I pass that one
with flying colors."
Gillispie declined to answer when asked whose judgment he was
referring to, saying it was obvious, apparently referring to
Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart.
NOTRE DAME 77, KENTUCKY 67
Harris 1-1 0-0 2, Stevenson 4-9 0-0 8, Patterson 6-12 6-8 18, Porter 2-5 0-0 5, Meeks 6-10 4-4 21, Miller 2-5 0-0 5, Galloway 2-4 0-0 4, Stewart 1-3 0-0 2, Liggins 0-0 0-0 0, Harrellson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-50 10-12 67.
NOTRE DAME (21-14)
Hillesland 0-0 0-0 0, Harangody 10-22 8-11 30, Jackson 4-7 1-2 10, McAlarney 3-10 6-6 15, Ayers 5-9 0-0 14, Nash 1-4 0-1 2, Peoples 2-3 0-0 6, Zeller 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-56 15-20 77.
Halftime-Notre Dame 34-26. 3-Point Goals-Kentucky 7-14 (Meeks 5-8, Miller 1-2, Porter 1-4), Notre Dame 12-25 (Ayers 4-7, McAlarney 3-9, Peoples 2-2, Harangody 2-4, Jackson 1-2, Zeller 0-1). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Kentucky 30 (Galloway, Patterson 7), Notre Dame 30 (Harangody 11). Assists-Kentucky 15 (Galloway, Patterson 3), Notre Dame 16 (Jackson 5). Total Fouls-Kentucky 14, Notre Dame 11. A-7,636.