1.The Mountaineers gave the Irish a dose of their own medicine. While Kyle McAlarney lived up to his reputation as a three-point specialist with 4-of-9 shooting from behind the arc, it was West Virginia's backcourt that shot the Garden's lights out in the 74-62 win Wednesday night. Mountaineers guard Alex Ruoff, a 37.6 percent shooter from three, connected on 4-of-7 attempts, and freshman guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant surprised Notre Dame coach Mike Brey with four threes of his own. "We just didn't plan for Truck to shoot like that," Brey said. "We let him get too comfortable." A starter since Joe Mazzulla went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in early December, the ever-smiling freshman has averaged 9.8 ppg and played 24.8 minutes per contest. "He was thrown in the fire," West Virginia assistant coach Billy Hahn said. "They were flaming like crazy but he took it like a man."
2. "We still have a very good chance of putting a banner up back home." The championship fabric Notre Dame guard Kyle McAlarney was talking about would read "2009 NIT Champions". To say that this season, which began with Final Four hopes, was a disappointment in South Bend would be an understatement. Ranked No. 9 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today preseason polls, the Irish endured too many ebbs and enjoyed too little flow this season. On Jan. 12 Brey's squad entered Freedom Hall with a 12-3 record, and forced overtime against Lousiville before falling 87-73. From that point on the Irish lost six straight and managed just five wins the rest of the way. "Just like tonight we continually made things interesting throughout the season," said Brey. "We're headed to the tourney we belong in."
3. Devin Ebanks is developing into a glass-eating force. The freshman forward attacked the boards from all angles, using his length and wingspan to grab 18 rebounds. Criticized last year for spurts of disinterest at St. Thomas More Prep in Oakdale, Conn., Ebanks, who originally committed to Indiana before KelvinSampson's phone habits became public knowledge, has been all hustle this year. "Some of the top high school players know they only have to bring their 'A' game three or four times in a season," said West Virginia assistant coach Billy Hahn, noting Ebanks' two 17-rebound game earlier in the season. "The freshmen are seeing how important each possession is at this level."
Typically the one delivering bruises, Luke Harangody was wearing the result of his collision with Irish sophomore Tim Abromaitis' elbow under his right eye. The collision occurred at a Notre Dame practice a few days earlier. "[Harangody]'s broken a few noses in practice," Brey said, "so Tim, who's not the most aggressive guy, saw the black eye as sort of a badge of honor."
The Backyard Brawl comes to the Garden as the Mountaineers face bitter rival Pitt in a new neighborhood. Pittsburgh assistant coaches Tom Herrion and Brandin Knight were both sitting on press row during West Virginia's win, and what they saw should be familiar. The Panthers beat the Mountaineers in Morgantown and at home in the regular season. Outrebounded 36-21 in the second loss, the Mountaineers cited a need to be tougher against DeJuan Blair and Tyrell Biggs underneath on Thursday night.
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.