NEW ORLEANS ¬- The Notre Dame spent February figuring out how to win without three-time All American Luke Harangody. It did, cruising into the NCAA tournament.
But on Thursday against No. 11 seed Old Dominion in the first round, the sixth-seeded Irish couldn't win with their best player, becoming the first team out of March Madness, falling 51-50 inside New Orleans Arena.
The Irish (23-12) held a nine-point first half lead but only shot 31 percent from the floor in the second half as the Colonial Athletic Association champions chipped away.
Harangody scored four points in 23 minutes on 2-of-9 shooting. Tim Abromaitis, Tory Jackson and Ty Nash combined for just 15 points.
"You've just gotta make some stuff over the top of that (zone defense)," Brey said. "And we couldn't."
Notre Dame began the game with a 15-6 run that culminated with a rebound, slam-dunk put back by Carleton Scott, who scored 14 points, and a three-pointer from Jackson.
ODU (27-8) responded with a telling five-point series. Kent Bazemore made a lay-up while being fouled by Nash with 9:47 left in the first half but missed the free throw. Frank Hassell rebounded the free throw, then rebounded a missed three-pointer by Trian Iliadis, and finally scored while being fouled and made the free throw to make it 15-11.
Notre Dame won the rebounding battle in the first half 21-14, but that sequence showed how ODU planned to get back into the game. The Irish led 28-22 at halftime, but the Monarchs got some sound advice from head coach Blaine Taylor.
"Coach kind of reminded us that we are a good rebounding team," said forward Keyon Carter. "We have been out-rebounding many of our opponents this year. He explained that we were getting slaughtered on the boards. They were up major on the rebounding. So it's just effort. We came out with a lot more effort and made a lot of clean box outs and (were) just being more aggressive to the boards."
The Monarchs tied the Irish on the boards in the second half, which let them get back into the game.
ODU took a 31-30 lead on a Carter jump shot with 14:24 left and started trading leads with Notre Dame. Ben Hansbrough, who scored a team-high 17 points, rallied the Irish to a 39-35 lead with a three-pointer with just over 10 minutes to play.
A lay-up and free throw by Hassell, who carried ODU with 15 points and nine rebounds, made it 43-43 at the 5:51 mark.
About three minutes later Darius James knocked down a wide open three-pointer that was immediately answered by Scott to tie the game back up. Free throws built ODU's lead back to three points on Notre Dame's final possession.
Scott had a shot to tie the game with two seconds left that rattled out. Harangody followed it up with an inconsequential lay-up as time expired on both the game and his college career.
"It couldn't have gone down any more," Scott said of his last shot. "It was just terrible. I thought it was good and the next thing you know it rolls out."