It wasn't pretty at times, but it was exactly what we needed to get back into the tournament picture.
We took care of business and won big on the road against a team with similar tournament hopes. Oh yeah, our best player was in foul trouble and ineffective all day. I'll take it. We knew that the bare minimum this week would be a split of West Virginia and Providence. We got that split and live a bit longer.
The ESPN360 commentators really played up Providence's three-point shooting. They take a decent amount, but by no means live on the perimeter (87th in the nation in three point field goals made). Oh, and they're not very good at shooting from out there (250th as of yesterday). Very poor commentary to repeatedly play up an aspect of Providence's offense that is neither essential nor all that effective.
Two guys really stepped up today: Ryan Ayers and Jonathan Peoples. A big tip of the cap to both as they had the best conference games of their respective careers. A nod also to Ty Nash, who fought hard in 12 minutes before fouling out. Every second he sits on the bench while Zach Hillesland plays in the high post is a negative for the Irish.
Hillesland reminds me a lot of myself on the floor... and that is definitely not a good thing. Decent athleticism and handles, but he causes far too many problems with the ball in his hands. He dribbles into traffic with his head down and either turns the ball over or kills the offensive flow. A couple bad decisions on the inbounds pass and weak defense against bigger players or quicker guys.
Tory Jackson played 12 minutes. I don't believe he was injured, but I'll wait to hear the official word on that. Jonathan Peoples played very well, so we had no problem sitting Tory a lot coming off of his worst game as a collegiate. 2 points, 1 assist, 4 rebounds in those 12 minutes.
Kyle McAlarney finished with 25 points. He was great in the first half beyond the arc, but forced a few looks in the final twenty minutes. He started making better cuts into the key and looking for twos down the stretch. That picked him up as the outside looks went cold and kept the Irish offense running. Nice game Mac.
Ryan Ayers finished with 28 points, the second game over twenty in his career. Unlike Mac, he never seemed to force looks and finished 7-11 from beyond the arc. Was only 2-6 with two pointers, but added eight rebounds and three assists for his most complete game ever. We need this guy to play at a high level the rest of the way. Good start this afternoon.
I've already mentioned Zach Hillesland. You just have to cringe every time he gets a touch on offense. Finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds, simply unacceptable in such a game played at such a fast pace. He can give you those numbers in 15-20 minutes. Anything more, like the 32 he had today, is an indication of how little trust Coach Brey places in his bench.
Luke Harangody took himself out of this contest with four really bad fouls. They weren't smart touches to eliminate a bucket and they didn't come as a result of hustle a la Ty Nash. Almost all were either a result of bad defense or a lack of concentration. He did come back in the second half with 17 points in the final period, but went 18 and 8 overall. With just 24 minutes, that's a huge stat line, but your best guy must be on the floor longer than that.
Off the bench, what a great game by Jonathan Peoples. 28 minutes, 14 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds. Easily the best game we have seen out of the junior reserve. Give those kind of numbers while playing within yourself (only 2 turnovers with as much as he handled the ball) and you're going to earn more playing time, Jonny. Great job. Ty Nash showed a lot of toughness with 8 points and 2 rebounds in just 12 minutes. He doesn't let blocked shots take him out of the contest and works his butt off. More PT for him, please. 4 points and 4 rebounds in 12 solid minutes for Zeller. Carleton Scott grabbed a rebounds in 11 seconds of game time. That's some really good experience that will significantly help his development of a player. Not really.
No real problems with the way we played today. The beginning of the second half saw Providence close the margin a bit but it never got too hairy. We needed to win and we put up a W that could be huge come Selection Sunday. Well done, need to go 3-1 now.