Winning is all that mattered tonight.
I have some cleaning up to do after this game. Close televised contests are not good for the living room. Thankfully no one was injured this time.
What a gutsy performance by Luke Harangody tonight. With all the focus on Michael Beasley, Bamm-Bamm looked the highly touted frosh in the eye and simply outplayed him. 19 points, 14 rebounds for our workhorse down low. Luke carried the team on his back through a poor first half of shooting and kept up the intensity the whole game.
Kyle McAlarney used a strong second half to keep the Irish ahead and make his friends and family proud. With 200 some acquaintances in attendance, Mac scored 18 points and made 2 of his 4 three pointers. At the end of the game, Kyle's strong ball-handling and foul shooting were necessary to keep the Wildcats from making any late runs.
Tory Jackson showed some flashes of the BET game against Georgetown. A few times late in the second half, he tried to carry the team on his shoulders with fearless drives to the hoop. While the attempts were sometimes unsuccessful, it's great to see the young man take that kind of responsibility. We also needed to make some better opportunities down the stretch so he wouldn't have to work so hard (the Irish went 4+ straight minutes with no points in the second half). He certainly has plenty of courage, getting knocked two rows deep into the stands at the end of the game (on a terrible no-call... the officiating was unbelievably bad at some points, but we won so I'll let it slide) and bouncing back up to celebrate the win. Turned the ball over too much (assist and turnover totals were unavailable on ESPN.com at the time of writing... Gametracker is much more reliable) and had some poor shooting, but a very inspiring performance overall.
Rob Kurz was a bit quiet, 6 points and 5 rebounds. With his frontcourt-mate playing so well, he was a little forgotten. Did make 60% of the shots he took. Quiet game and didn't post his normal numbers. Still, Bamm-Bamm more than made up for the Senior's deficiencies tonight.
Ryan Ayers took some ill-advised shots that ended possessions much too soon. Only 5 points on 2-7 shooting, but came up with a great deflection near the end that forced Kansas St. to resort to fouling. He does provide good wing defense, but needs to be more reliable from deep. A low shooting night overall though, so fair play to him.
Hillesland didn't score, but was a beast on the boards. 6 rebounds, including 4 offensive. Matched up well when asked against Walker and Beasley and provided overall hustle and muscle. Definitely our best post player off the bench.
Zeller came through on some key threes tonight. 2 of 4 from deep for 6 points. Those buckets kept the Irish ahead in key spots. Provided very little down low, but we certainly could have lost without those two clutch shots. That's his best attribute, so Coach Brey needs to just take advantage of that outside ability. It's starting to get a little late for counting on him to develop as an inside threat.
Jonny Peoples was the same as usual, quality time at the guard spot. Nothing flashy, just a very good minutes eater. Did get a little action on the wing with Mac and Jackson in the backcourt, but certainly not something we will see more often. Not a great scoring threat, missing 3 long range attempts.
No freshmen tonight. The veterans certainly played hard all game and deserved their minutes. No one looked tired at the end of the game, so the eight-man rotation worked well enough.
The zone was very effective for stretches of the game, holding K-State to 39%. Four more rebounds for the Irish, but they did give up too many tip-in opportunities through the zone. Though ND had more offensive boards, many of those came three or four in a row. Kansas State used their offensive rebounds to put the ball in the basket.
Poor shooting, only 39%. Did pick it up in the second half, as K-Mac started to heat up. Still, the Irish missed too many threes (only 25%) and tried to get cute against the zone, leading to last second drives that commonly failed. Overall, it is a good sign to beat a quality team when we don't shoot well. The Irish lived by the three last season and probably could not have won a game like this a year ago. Held the Wildcats to 25 second-half points, making up for scoring only 32 points in the period.
A great win for this team and much deserved. For a squad with so much promise entering the Paradise Jam, they certainly stepped to the plate tonight. Add in a quality win (cheer for K-State to play well the rest of the year) against our toughest nonconference opponent and it seems that the season is back on track. As long as the Irish hold serve at home until January, Notre Dame can feel confident about an NCAA bid once again.
Congrats to Luke, Kyle, and all the players tonight. A job well done playing at "home" in the Garden. Let's break the home winning streak record Saturday.