Gotta love Luke Harangody...
First of all, thanks to all the coaches who got out of the normal dress shoes for Coaches vs. Cancer National Awareness Weekend. Coach Brey has always been a big spokesman of the search for a cure. Jay Wright of Villanova went all out, ditching the three-piece suit for a warmup in the Wildcats' loss to Syracuse. Certainly a great effort by the NABC every year.
To the game. Coach Brey has a pretty warm relationship with Jery Wainwright, which makes this series special for both coaches involved (mock turtleneck connection, perhaps?). It was the 97th meeting overall for the two rivals, with the Irish holding a 52-44 advantage.
300 pounder Wesley Green got the start for the Blue Demons tonight. He sure is a big fella. Showed a little range banking in a three from the top of the key in addition to an eight rebound performance. Wainwright, the used car salesman look-alike, did a great job with the DePaul game plan. The Blue Demons tried to run the floor after every Notre Dame basket, killing lots of potential runs in their infancy. The super-hot DePaul shooters knocked down more than their fair share of three-pointers (48%), single-handedly keeping this game from turning into a rout. While the Irish gave up a lot of points on quick fast breaks after scoring, I really can't fault ND's concentration too much. If DePaul had shot their season average (34%) from beyond the arc, those breaks would have given the ball back to Irish quickly and this would have been a 15-20 point win. Sometimes a team gets hot and makes all those contested shots.
Tory Jackson had another very good offensive night. 8 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. Though he didn't end up with double figures scoring, Jackson was able to break down the defense with his drives. Hit the offensive boards with tenacity and never gave up under the basket. His four steals kept the momentum in favor of the Irish and show how much the sophomore hustled tonight.
Kyle McAlarney was cold again. When most shooters fail to connect early in the game, a coach would frown on taking 13 attempts from beyond the arc. However, we know how golden Mac is when he gets hot. His consistent effort to take those deep looks resulted in points down the stretch and gave the team a boost. 17 points, but only 5-17 shooting. Great to see the Irish win another game without a huge performance from the shooting guard. If he is going to have a cold night, better against DePaul than in the BET or NCAAs. 6 assists, 1 turnover as well. Great job handling the ball.
Zach Hillesland played very well in 21 minutes. 10 points, 5 rebounds. We know he's always going to split time with Ryan Ayers, but he gives us such a lift when on the floor. Had a nice dunk and great left-handed putback when crashing the glass on offense. Great energy and attitude.
Rob Kurz is so solid. 8 points, 12 rebounds. Really needed that double-figure output from him as the Irish were seriously outshot. Winning the rebounding battle won us the game tonight. Therefore have to give the props to Rob...
...and Luke Harangody. Who doesn't love this guy? Has my vote for Big East Player of the Week after a 29 and 14 performance tonight. May even end up with Player of the Year, but let's not look too far ahead yet. 10 of those boards were offensive, giving the Irish much-needed second chances. 9-12 from the line, another very solid night for the big man. Such an anchor down low and is starting to get the national attention he very much deserves.
Off the bench, I really like Ryan Ayers. His mindset is really starting to change and he is looking to take more opportunities when on the floor. Before, the game had to come to him. Now, he takes his shots and looks to contribute. Deserved the 32 minutes tonight and will hopefully continue to develop as a scorer. Had a pretty dunk as well (honestly didn't know he could do that). Luke Zeller had 6 points in 7 minutes. Nice for him to contribute well in limited playing time. Jonathan Peoples had a fairly productive 11 minutes, but not much to show for it.
The 3-2 zone that Coach Brey has brought back out of the attic works pretty well. I like having Ayers on the top using his wingspan to take away passes. The refs, Jim Burr (wince...), Wally Rutecki, and J.D. Collins, were consistently bad, so not a lot to complain about. Certainly could have called a much tighter game, but we got away with as much as they did.
How can you not love this team's attitude? After watching how the squad responded to each other, I can't help but be happy that Alex Legion chose to go elsewhere. This is such a special group of individuals. Their combined hustle (just about every player ended up on the floor at one point or another) and love of the game (Mac, Hillesland, Jackson, and Ayers all went nuts after making key shots) is tremendous. Watching Kyle slap the floor after a key three-pointer in the first half was great. Just a really quality bunch of guys.
Obviously, the outcome was a little too close for comfort. Got back to DePaul shooting 14 points higher than average from beyond the arc to see how this game was so close. The Blue Demons outshot the Irish 49% to 43% and made two extra field goals. Also had three extra 3-pointers. Again, the Irish were great from the line (17-20- 85%). Only turned the ball over eight times, a nice trip back below 10 for that statistic. Also finished with 11 more rebounds and 18 on the offensive glass. When you beat a team that had such a great shooting night, you have to take the win no matter the opponent.
So we travel to Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Pirates won 5 in a row before losing to Georgetown tonight. Go Irish!
EDIT- You may have noticed a lack of posting for Basketballforum.com. With all these games on Saturday, it's tough to get two big posts in. Hopefully I'll be able to continue when more time opens up.