Embarrassing. The Irish killed any reasonable chance of an NCAA berth with a lackluster effort in the second half tonight. Need at least three (most likely four after this performance) wins in the Big East Tournament to even be considered for an at-large bid. Good luck with that.
15 turnovers, most of them just stupid telegraphed passes, and awful free throw shooting killed any possible offensive flow. The defense was horrendous as well in the second half, allowing easy Villanova three pointers to disrupt any chance of an Irish run before our offense completely collapsed.
Tory Jackson was awful. 4 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, not a terrible primary stat line. However he killed the Irish with 5 really dumb turnovers. Allowed Scottie Reynolds to score 23 points on 6 wide open three pointers. Add in a 1-8 shooting night for a dismal performance all the way around.
Kyle McAlarney was just as bad. 5 points, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers. 2-7 shooting, not a factor from downtown (1-3). He got beat a few times on defense, but was not the primary problem.
Ryan Ayers was the lone bright spot. 25 points, 7-10 from beyond the arc. 4 assists, 4 rebounds, just 1 turnover. His lights-out shooting kept the Irish in it for a while, but not long enough.
Ty Nash was solid in his first start. 4 points and 11 rebounds in a career-high 25 minutes. At the very least he was not Zach Hillesland. He finished as the high rebounder in the game (and the only one in double figures) and used some hustle and muscle not seen in the ND high post all year. Needs to improve interior defense (Dante Cunningham backed him down all game) and free throw shooting (he is dreadful from the line), but should be a starter the rest of the year.
Luke Harangody was absent in the most important game of the Irish season. I doubt he will be re-elected as Big East Player of the Year and until the last couple of games I thought that was a shame. However, he has finished without a double double in three of the last four games and been a limited factor offensively. The Player of the Year must rise to the challenge when his team's season is on the line. Luke did last year. Unfortunately, he just has not seemed the same guy over the last few games. 18 and 7 tonight, but managed only as many defensive boards (3) as Kyle McAlarney. You gotta be better than that.
Peoples was the only factor off the bench with 25 minutes. Villanova plays three or four guards all game, so no real surprise there. He was solid on the boards and handling the ball, but terrible shooting it. Zeller played just 7 minutes, a nice show of confidence in Ty Nash. You knew the game was over when Carleton Scott came in for the final 2 minutes.
This is probably the final death knell of what has been a very disappointing season. I'll wait until after everything is well and truly done to write the obituary, however.
Speaking of which (wow, what a dreadful segue), condolences to the family of Forrest "Woody" Miller. Miller covered Irish basketball for a long time for the South Bend Tribune, but I will always know him as the cantankerous old man who sat next to me in the press box of the South Bend Silver Hawks. All kidding aside, Woody, you will be missed. You were a big part of the job that made my last two summers pretty damn fun.
Beat St. John's and then show some fight in the BET. The nice thing about conference tourneys is that you always control your own destiny. Let's actually show some heart over the next week and a half.