That's the last time I insult a future opponent. Lehigh shot well for 40 minutes and played strong defense, but the Irish stayed tough and pulled this one out. Last year's Patriot League runner-up in shots made from beyond the arc, Jose Oliveros finished the night with 32 points. The Mountain Hawks (whatever those are) hit eight of their first nine from 3 point land to go up 13 in the first half. By calming down and hitting our big men for easy shots, Notre Dame was able to grab its first lead just before halftime. Colin Falls came alive in the 2nd 20 minutes and finished with 21 points on the night, while Rob Kurz scored a career-high 25 putting the game away.
Before the game, Mike Brey presented former Irish captain and Lehigh head coach Billy Taylor with a nice plaque. After that, Taylor's boys jumped ahead with good early defense and poor shot selection on ND's part. Most of our offensive futility can be attributed to impatience and taking wild shots with no second chances. Russell Carter had an interesting game. He can be a headcase, taking wild off-balance threes and cursing at himself when Brey substitutes for him. Later on, however, he settled down and used the drive to set up his outside shot.
Bamm-Bamm had limited minutes, partly due to foul trouble. When he did play, he was our best inside weapon and will hopefully continue to get more playing time. Kurz played very well. He isn't as effective as LH inside, but has a good dribble drive and can hit the 15 footer. He also played good interior D and was a workhorse while Harangody was on the bench.
Most impressive was Zach Hillesland. I would love to see more of him in the future. Brey gave him time for Zeller at the beginning of the 2nd half, showing confidence in his ability. I was worrying about Hillesland's place on the team after seeing him backup Kurz and Zeller down low. He is most effective playing the 3, with two bigger men inside. ZH can drive and kick or use his height to shoot over smaller defenders. Most impressive was the way he handled himself on the floor. He is a smart player who doesn't turn the ball over and hustles on both ends to grab loose balls and run the break. I hope Brey plays him in combination with Kurz and Bamm-Bamm to let him focus on what he does well, drive and shoot, instead of posting up under the glass.
Colin Falls ended up with great numbers, but I am beginning to believe he would be better suited coming off the bench. He is a streaky shooter who needs to get hot. If he gets 15-20 backing up Carter or the small forward, he could very well end up being as much of a weapon, while having a more mobile player on the floor to start.
Jackson has a bit of an attitude, but he is tenacious. The fire he plays with must rub off on the other guys and inspire them to work harder late in games. He doesn't stop on defense, gets in his teammates' faces on the bench and is effective running the offensive for K-Mac. If he stays humble, he could turn out to be a good player.
For a few minutes in the 2nd half, we ran our most athletic offense all year.
Hopefully we see more of that in the future.
Best scene all day was watching Jackson, Ayers, and LH on the bench losing 41-38. The three underclassmen were on their feet urging the small crowd to cheer louder. Good to see players in the game even without more playing time.
That's it. Hopefully we see a more dominating performance on Wednesday.