Notre Dame went five minutes without a field goal through a key period in the second half and it turned a four point lead into a six point loss at Connecticut. The inability of the Irish to knock down important shots in the final minute killed any chance of a comeback. No such thing as a good loss, but plenty positive to take out of the rematch as Luke Harangody looks poised to run away with the conference player of the year award.
The game went back and forth all night, with the Irish holding most of the advantage in the first half. In the second 20 minutes, Notre Dame missed 11 straight shots from the field and wasted three second chances off of offensive rebounds. From 7:44 to 2:33 left, Connecticut went on a 10-2 run and permanently took the advantage. Had missed three point attempts by Ryan Ayers, Kyle McAlarney, and Luke Zeller fallen in the final minute, this could have been a different outcome. Alas, it was not to be.
Tory Jackson was very good game scoring and rebounding, but was just average handling the ball. 13 points, 9 rebounds. 4 assists to 4 turnovers. Overall, a good performance as the sophomore keeps to develop as a scorer. Made two of his four three point attempts, the only Irish player to shoot well from beyond the arc. If he can continue to develop his outside game, he adds a great threat to the Irish attack.
When Kyle McAlarney is cold, the Irish invariably lose. K-Mac could not repeat his 32 point performance from the JACC, scoring only twelve on 4-14 shooting. 2 assists, 4 boards to go along. His 2 for 7 line from beyond the arc was not enough, as the Irish only shot 29% as a team. Knock a couple more of those down and its a tie game.
Zach Hillesland provided his normal night, 4 points/6 rebounds/4 assists. I would love to see Zach get more into the scoring (indeed, I trashed Ayers a lot for the same fact), but when 48 shots are taken by your three high scorers, there are not a lot of points to go around. Gave his normal effort over 21 minutes...
Which is more than one could say about Rob Kurz. The lone senior disappeared for long portions of the contest. Season lows for points and rebounds. In similarly important contests against Kansas St., Georgetown, and Marquette at home, Kurz has been extremely quiet. Need to see more from the big guy when the team is in a big game like that.
But Luke Harangody sure put on a show. Hasheem Thabeet embarrassed Bamm-Bamm in their last meeting, using his height to take away the sophomore's jump hook. Harangody scored in all sorts of ways tonight, completely outclassing the Connecticut big man all night. 32 points, 16 rebounds in what will undoubtedly gain him consideration for a third straight Power Poll Player of the Week award. Picked up four fouls, the last in the final minute, but was able to stay on the floor for nearly the entire game. Congrats to him for really proving himself against a seven footer tonight.
Off the bench, both Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller failed to provide the outside shooting that they specialize in. 2-6 overall for Ayers, 2-8 for Zeller. When your games center around putting the ball in the basket from long range, we need a better output than that. With McAlarney pretty quiet, either one of the bench players could have really picked up the team tonight. Jonathan Peoples had another quiet night. Some see flashes of him playing and really think he could be a special talent in the future. Time will tell, but right now he looks like no more than a minute-eater for Jackson and McAlarney.
A very good game for both teams. It is encouraging to see both squads playing at a national-quality level. Six point wins at home for each in the two game series shows how close the two teams are in talent. Connecticut is one of the hottest teams in the nation right now, but Notre Dame was able to stay in contention all the way at Gampel Pavilion. No small feat.
Connecticut made two more shots than the Irish overall. ND held the rebounding edge by two. The Irish were unable to get to the line often, a stat that has really kept them afloat in close contests against Marquette and Providence. Not a lot of turnovers for either side, 8 for UCONN and 12 for ND. 3 point shooting really helped the Huskies with 40% compared to 7-24 for the Irish.
A.J. Price had a very nice night with 26. Austrie and Adrien provided 14 and 13. 10 off the bench for Wiggins. Would have been nice to see him still suspended. Wiggins grabbed 9 rebounds, same with Adrien. Hasheem Thabeet was not the same offensive beast as against Georgia Tech. 4 points, 10 rebounds. Six blocked shots as well, an average night of work for the big Tanzanian.
Notre Dame has a game at Rutgers on Sunday. A big win there would be great to get the team back on track. Still always tough to pull one out at the RAC. Home contests against Pittsburgh and Syracuse give the Irish the chance to all but lock up a top 4 finish next week.
Losses always sting a bit, this one no less than usual. Still a gutsy performance for Notre Dame and they will need to bounce back well to keep the good juices from out five game winning streak going.