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December 11, 2008Last Saturday, it was Luke Harangody against the world in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Okay, not the whole world, but the entire Ohio State front line.
Harangody, coming off a bout with pneumonia, scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in 36 minutes of action.
The rest of the team scored 37 points and had 20 rebounds in 164 minutes of action.
"For us, a reoccurring issue is keeping people-the athletic ability-out of our lane," said Irish head coach Mike Brey.
"It's no different than two years ago, and we've gotten better at it. But it will come back and bite us (if we don't keep) the athletic ability out of the lane and off our backboard.
"We're never going to completely shut that down because we play against some amazing athletic ability. But we need to calm it down a little bit like we did in the Texas game."
The Longhorns out-rebounded the Irish, 48-37. But Notre Dame had a much more balanced attack that afternoon in Maui than they did last Saturday against Ohio State.
Harangody had 29 points and 13 rebounds against Texas. Kyle McAlarney added 19 points and five rebounds while Tory Jackson had 16 points and five rebounds. Zach Hillesland chipped in with eight points and six rebounds.
Everyone was contributing and crashing the boards.
But not against Ohio State as the Buckeyes forged a 15-7 advantage in second-chance points, which proved to be the difference in a five-point loss.
What will it take for the Irish to get the message about taking care of business in the paint?
"Maybe to have their face rubbed in it occasionally," Brey mused. "That's the great thing about basketball. You can lose a game or two or three or seven and still get your NCAA tournament bid.
"You'd like to be able to correct things without getting smacked. But it's always good to show some film of guys getting pushed around a bit and see how they respond."
Still, the reality is that the Irish don't sport a lot of bulk beyond Harangody, which is why Brey signed 6-foot-8, 215-pound Jack Broghammer, 6-foot-8, 210-pound Jack Cooley, and 6-foot-8, 245-pound Tom Knight. They will arrive this summer.
"We need some beef," Brey said. "We've addressed that in our recruiting class. We've got three big guys coming. I feel good about Broghammer and Cooley. Those two guys are ready physically to compete. We need some more bangers."
(Editor's note: Brey hinted that Knight is a red-shirt candidate.)
In the meantime, players like Luke Zeller, Zach Hillesland and Ty Nash will have to increase their physicality.
"Zeller has become more of a physical presence to us," Brey said. "He's not to the (Rob) Kurz level, but maybe we can get him there. Harangody can't be the only guy. Zach has to do more of it, but that's not his game all the time. That's where Nash becomes really important for us as we move forward.
"It's something we're always discussing and working on."