Nice solid win by the Irish at home against a team we needed to beat easily. This one went almost perfectly according to plan.
Upstate played as well as one could expect for a team near the bottom of the RPI. Loads of athleticism and shooting ability, but not fundamentally sound. Their talent kept it close for most of the first half, it wasn't ever much of a contest.
The Spartans shot 44% in the first half to Notre Dame's 52%. Consistency was the key for the Irish as they shot an even 50% in the second half, well above USCU's 28% line. ND was a little sloppy with the ball, turning the ball over 14 times, but receiving 19 freebies. Irish did stay out of foul trouble, fouling half as many times as Upstate.
Tory Jackson was solid, expect for a couple notable mistakes. One of his three turnovers came on a failed alley-oop attempt. Though the Irish did convert a couple pretty ones later, I'm not big on theatrics during a game. Carleton Scott going to the air is one thing, but having Harangody recklessly try to slam it home over a defender in an early season blowout scares me. It's far too easy to get off balance and land funny, risking injury. Enough of my rant though, the rest of Tory's game was fine. 8 assists, perfect from the line, nice start to the year.
Kyle McAlarney made an emphasis on including the rest of the team today. Only took six shots and finished with ten points. Was 50% from beyond the arc. Obviously, he will need to be more of a factor in Maui, but we know he's quality when asked. Also assisted on six baskets, a solid number for a two guard.
Ryan Ayers put together a pretty good 26 minutes. No huge numbers, but was a very good defender and knocked down a couple open looks. I would like to see him make more of an impact on the boards, but three today is not too shabby.
Zach Hillesland is starting to play like a Big East power forward. After manning the wing for the start of his career at ND, Zach put together a complete effort in just over half the game. 13, 8, and 4. If those numbers hold out as season averages, Hillesland will be an improvement over Rob Kurz's totals from the same position last season. Unfortunately, it looks like Zach will not merit the kind of playing time that Kurz enjoyed last year (28.6 a game), but he and Zeller will make a very good two headed monster at the high post.
Take a second to enjoy watching Luke Harangody this season. We don't know how much longer we have to enjoy him, but he is as good as any Notre Dame player in recent memory. The total package is there, with the forceful inside game to the baby hook to that ugly but efficient jumper. 30 points, 14 rebounds, one for one from beyond the arc. I was interested to see how he would play against 7'3" Nick Schneiders and he succeeded. Though Schneiders did keep 'Gody from getting to the hoop a couple of times in 21 foul-plagued minutes, Luke was able to score wherever and whenever he wanted the rest of the night. That is a good sign for when Luke faces Hasheem Thabeet later this year, a guy who has gotten a lot of unmerited press (though he did look good in UCONN's opener).
Time to sing Luke Zeller's praises. He has gotten a lot of heat (from many outlets, including this blog) for not turning into the five-star force we thought he would be in the post. He has always worked hard, even though things didn't quite turn out perfectly. It has to be tough seeing little bro Tyler lead the #1 team in scoring in his first collegiate game. Luke is trooper and completely deserved his career-high 18 point night with five rebounds to boot. Perfect in two efforts from beyond the arc, Luke scored inside and out and is looking to push Zach Hillesland for that starting power forward slot. Good for him.
Jonny Peoples gave his usual steady backup point performance. 2 points, 2 assists, 3 steals, 0 turnovers. Ty Nash cleaned the boards in his eleven minutes. Should anything happen to Zeller or Hillesland, he looks to be a good replacement down low. Carleton Scott showed off his ability to leap over tall buildings, scoring his six points on a couple of thunderous dunks. I'd like to see him on the floor a little bit more. Kopko and Andree also got some playing time. Not sure of the status of Abromaitis, but he was on the bench in warmups. Hopefully just being held out as a precaution.
Just what the doctor ordered before out trip down to Maui. Friday's game against LMU is next, a quick stop on the way over. The Lions went 5-26 last year, but the seats should be filled for this game.
All 4,156 of them...