Superman meet Kryptonite. Washington State expertly controlled the pace and held Notre Dame to 25% shooting to end the Irish season in the Round of 32.
A pretty awful way to end the year. Luke Harangody grabbing 22 rebounds was the only highlight of the night as every shooter in black was harrassed constantly. Congrats to the Cougars for an excellent job on defense and taking ND out of their game.
What happened? WSU ran the half-court offense very well, draining the shot clock and picking up just enough offensive rebounds to keep possessions to a minimum. On defense, they never let the Irish get out in transition and played lock-down D in the halfcourt. They only had one or two guys crash the offensive glass, ensuring a high number of rebounds for Bamm-Bamm but also keeping Notre Dame from turning quick outlet passes into layups at the other end.
There were two ways for Notre Dame to win this game: accept the slow pace and shoot a high percentage from the field or get turnovers to speed the game up. In the first half, they tried plan number 1. Unfortunately, Forrest and Cowgill were mostly able to take away Luke Harangody one-on-one. That left Wazzou's quick guards free to roam the perimeter and take away outside shots. The 18% from three point range tells the tale of their success out there.
In the second half, Coach Brey made a solid adjustment to full-court man defense. This made Washington State a little more frantic and brought the Irish within 7. Unfortunately, WSU was able to adjust and beat the press. Notre Dame never opened the game into a sprint and were not able to convert half court opportunities. Game, set, match Washington State. The Irish go home.
Tory Jackson was a little razzled today. He tried to push the pace on occasion and turned the ball over. Certainly looked like a sophomore. 7 points, 4 rebounds, but only 2 assists. Not that there were a lot of field goals to assist.
Kyle McAlarney finished a resurgent year 2-8 from three point range. We have consistently lost when Mac shoots such a low percentage and tonight was no different. 12 points, 3 rebounds. Great to see him back in an Irish uniform, however, and here's to a spectacular senior campaign.
Zach Hillesland was pretty quiet. Only 2 points with 4 rebounds. 0-2 from the field. It will be interesting to see what is role will be in next year's squad. He was a welcome addition to the starting lineup halfway through the year and a great part of our success in the Big East.
How about Luke Harangody this year? No one would have predicted what we would become by year's end. A disappointing way to end the Big East Player of the Year's season. 10 points, an amazing 22 rebounds, but only 3-17 shooting. He was taken out of the offensive game in a way no one could have predicted.
Sad to see Rob Kurz go, but that's how it must be. 8 points, 3 rebounds in his final game. A great captain and terrific senior leader. His leadership will be missed and the Irish will need to find a solid high post guy to help Harangody next year. Good luck to Rob in the future.
Off the bench, a really tough night for Ryan Ayers. He showed the willingness to take shots tonight, but finished 0-4. No points. When he is on, he makes a great case for a starting slot, but we will see what happens. Jonathan Peoples with two late free throws. He was a quiet guy this year, just the backup point guard. Has some range, but rarely uses it. He may be a four year backup for us. Luke Zeller with nothing to show for the last game of his third college season. He has shown some improvement, but never became the post player that many had hoped for. Next year, he will help out at the high post and on the wing. It will be interesting to see how he handles some of Rob Kurz's responsibilities.
Abromaitis and Nash with mopup minutes. Those two guys could be the gamechangers next year. Really wanted to see more of them, especially Nash, but Coach Brey stuck with an 8 man lineup. Hard to second guess that now, as we had so much success with the eight veterans and the freshman probably would not have changed the outcome of this game. However, next year could be as much as 9-10 guys deep. Where do Abro and Nash fit in? I would guess they each get 8-10 minutes a game. What about a guy like Scott when he is healthy? He probably has the most upside of the freshmen. Even Proffitt could contribute. We shall see.
Just a poor game against a team that really matched up well against us. Hats off to Washington State for holding Coach Brey's team to its lowest scoring and shooting night of his career at ND. We never got into our game and they were incredibly efficent at theirs. Stats like their turning the ball over only once in the first half shows how well they were able to control this game.
Tough way to end the year, as always. However, great strides were made with the best Big East record and making the second round of the tournament. Next season should be even better.
Tomorrow and Monday I will recap the season and look forward to next year. Thanks to everyone who has contributed and I eagerly anticipate another season with all of you.