Train off tracks. Irish now face their nightmare scenario as they drop another winnable game against a top 10 opponent at home. The goal is just to make the Tournament now.
Peoples came in for Ayers and Zeller for Hillesland in the starting lineups, good moves underlined by the complete ineptitude of the former starters today. Peoples made a couple nice threes and was decent overall while Zeller really stepped up for the first two-thirds of the contest. Unfortunately, Luke completely lost his mind near the end and wasted a few extremely critical possessions down the stretch. It just seems like our 3 and 4 are not going to be able to put up 40 minutes of Big East quality play.
Of course, our normally solid backcourt is not free from blame. Both Jackson and McAlarney forced the pace into turnovers time and again. Is it so hard to slow the pace against a three guard lineup? We're not North Carolina out there, our best player is in the post. Slow it down and make possessions count. Our fast breaks only result in points for the other team.
Without Luke Harangody, we might struggle to beat South Florida with a game like this. 29 points, 17 rebounds, singularly carried the team and pumped up the crowd. He was also our only consistent shooter all game. I'm going to miss this guy when he's gone. I wish I could write more, but it's tough to celebrate the good with a 3-5 conference record.
As said before, Tory really hurt the team with some dumb drives in transition. However, he did score 10 points and grab 8 rebounds with 7 assists. Shot well on a few three point attempts, but couldn't convert inside the arc.
K-Mac had his second awful shooting performance in two big home games. So much for shooting better at home. 3-12 overall, 1-6 beyond the arc. 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists.
Peoples kept the team in the game with two big three pointers, but was a problem on the defensive end. Maybe starting him was a good idea to counteract the Golden Eagle three guard lineup, but he really plays like a mid-major guy on both ends. Not fast enough to guard the quick guys off the dribble or close off the open three.
Zeller finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds. When was the last time our starting power forward finished with eight or more boards? December 2nd against South Dakota. That's just pathetic. So props to Luke for stepping the plate and giving us a good second option on the glass. Unfortunately, he cracked in crunch time with a turnover (which basically consisted of bobbling a pass and handing it to a blue jersey between his legs) and a three point attempt that went down like the half court shot on GameDay.
Bench? What bench? We don't need no stinkin' bench. No points, 0-10 shooting, 5 rebounds in 38 minutes for Ayers, Hillesland, and Zeller. That was only topped by the 53 minutes of offensive trash played by Burke and the four Marquette bench players. If a single player finished with 38 scoreless minutes (save for Stephen Curry), he would never be wearing a Notre Dame jersey again.
Ayers is nothing on offense if he can't knock down those shots. Unbelievably, he is 1-17 in the last two games. Thanks for not showing up when we needed you most, Ryan. Hillesland has averaged less than three points per game in 2009. The last time he scored more than 6 was in December. Two points in the last three games. Here's to Zach getting better soon and becoming a solid player off the bench. Unfortunately neither he nor Ryan is anything more than that right now.
I liked what I saw in Ty Nash. Though he didn't score and only grabbed 2 rebounds in 8 minutes, he actually worked in the post. With Hillesland and Zeller, we have no second post prescence. He did struggle a bit with Marquette focused on him, but I like the potential there. He also tipped two passes and nearly forced turnovers on both occasions. The rest of the team in 40 minutes? 3 turnovers forced. Seems like the sophomore can bring a little needed pressure on D. He's not ready for the starting lineup, but I'd like to see him spell Zeller at the 4. Let Ayers and Hillesland swap time at small forward.
We're now 3-5 in the Big East. Unless the team gets better in a hurry, Saturday should be very tough to watch. 3-6 in the first half of the conference schedule is not the record of a good team. We need to finish extremely strong or this season of such promise will end in the NIT.
P.S. Thanks to Cracked Sidewalks for making my hits go through the roof tonight. I always have some trouble with how to feel about Marquette. It's a fantastic school with some very good fans who support their team well. Of course, they are also one of, if not our biggest, rivals. Fair play to them and here's to a rematch in New York.