No excuses for this one. Rutgers is AWFUL. Harangody showed some terrible leadership with his shot selection and the rest of the team was dominated on the boards and played really poor defense. Give Rutgers credit for winning this one, they deserved it. The only positive aspect of this outcome may be a change in the future of the program. Time will tell.
The most frustrating aspects of this game come down to hustle. While the Irish certainly display really poor fundamentals with regards to boxing out and switching on defense, much of Rutgers' success on the boards and getting to the foul line just came from the fact that they wanted this one more. Don't tell me that Fred Hill is some coaching genius or that Rutgers has a strong talent advantage. This team will be lucky to win more than one or two more Big East games this season. All that mattered last night was that they outworked the Irish for 40 minutes on both ends of the floor.
Tory Jackson played the entire contest before fouling out with 19 seconds remaining. He was one of the four starters to be on the floor for at least 37 minutes. That's an insane distribution of playing time. He performed fairly well, with 11 points and 6 rebounds, but you cannot possibly convince me that a tired Jackson in crunch time is worth avoiding playing a freshman for 5 or 6 minutes in the middle of the contest.
Ben Hansbrough had a very impressive night statistically. 18 points on 6-12 shooting, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals. Unfortunately, two of his three-pointers did nothing more than reduce the margin in the final ten seconds. The high number of steals was due to Rutgers' poor decision making and ball handling ability (that's been a real issue for them all year) and Hansbrough's surprising talent for on-the-ball D. His real Achilles heel, however, comes when we need a guy to chase a shooter around get a hand in his face. Hansbrough may force the most turnovers on the team, but he isn't the guy you can call on to lock down someone like Mike Rosario.
A double-double for Abromaitis. He played 39 minutes and earned 4 fouls while going for 17 and 10. Again, I really have to question the intelligence of keeping so many guys in foul trouble on the floor. While most of Jackson's fouls came at the end of the game, Abromaitis picked up two in the first eight minutes of the contest. Most coaches would sit a star player for much of the rest of the half after that, but Mike Brey needlessly risked our number two scorer in an asinine attempt to keep a six man rotation.
Ty Nash had 6 points, 1 rebound, and 4 fouls. He is the biggest reason why Notre Dame was so dominated on the glass. Of course, my biggest beef with this has less to do with Nash's playing time (he only was on the floor for 26 minutes), but who replaced him when he came out of the game. Instead of turning to the second-best rebounder on the team, Coach Brey put in a backup point guard whose rebounding average barely bests Jack Cooley's. Carleton Scott's per-minute rebounding average puts him just below Harangody. Though he is abysmal on offense, he could hardly have performed worse than Peoples last night. Awful coaching by Brey.
If Luke Harangody plays like that for the rest of the year, Notre Dame will be better next season without him. I truly believe that. I like the comparison to Chris Thomas after last night's performance. Brey will never take the big man out for poor shot selection, which just allows him to continue to waste possessions and keep the Irish from performing to their potential as a balanced attack. He had twice as many attempts as any other player for Notre Dame, yet managed just two more points than Abromaitis and one more than Hansbrough. There were plenty of other problems with the Irish last night, but our All-American was a huge reason for why we lost to the worst team in the conference.
Off the bench, Peoples somehow earned 16 minutes. He didn't do much of anything but foul when he got the chance. I didn't catch the postgame quotes, but if there was an honest reason for why Carleton Scott didn't play until the final minute, please let me know. If this was simply an attempt to show Scott we could win without him, Mike Brey should be fired on the spot.
A lot of times, I try to diffuse some criticism after bad losses. It is a long season, but sometimes the team performs so poorly that I cannot disagree with the conclusions of many. Last night was the final straw. Though I like him a lot as a person and believe that he has done a tremendous job in bringing the program out of the mess of the '90s and putting us back on the college basketball landscape, there is no further doubt in my mind about what needs to happen at the end of the year. With any hope of the NCAA tournament gone and one of the best players in program history turning into a shadow of his former self, let me finally say it.
Fire Mike Brey.