The slow-motion train wreck just keeps rollin' along. With a one-point lead going into the final minute, the Irish managed to drop another close game. Two awful shot choices by Tory Jackson at the end put the icing on the cake. The Irish went 2-3 in their "easy" five-game stretch. The hellish end-of-season games await. This could be a seven game losing streak.
In fairness, the team did fight hard to come back after falling behind by nine in the second half. They played without their top scorer, a guy who is third nationally in percentage of shots taken. The Irish had to start completely from scratch. Additionally, having no experienced post player available to come off the bench was a big, though self-inflicted, handicap.
Still, this loss is the worst of the conference season for a variety of reasons. The one-point defeat to Rutgers came on the road. While the Scarlet Knights looked like a very bad team two weeks ago, they have been improving with every game, beating the Red Storm and now boasting a three-point victory over Georgetown. Tonight's loss in South Bend served only to highlight coaching failures including the mismanagement of timeouts and a horrid final possession. There is not much of a silver lining.
Tory Jackson's final two three-point attempts displayed a complete lack of self-awareness by a guy who should be the most reliable player on the floor. Down by one, the Irish needed to take the ball to the basket, either to get a high-percentage look inside or potentially draw a foul. Tory dribbled to the left side of the court and took a contested off-balanced three pointer. There was enough time left on the clock for him to get the ball back and heave it up again. Such a waste.
For the game, he shot 1-10 and displayed bad decision-making throughout. 5 turnovers to go with his 3 assists. With the other senior leader off the floor, we needed Tory to step up and carry the team a bit. It did not happen.
Ben Hansbrough scored 13 and had a pretty good night shooting the ball. Thankfully, Jonathan Peoples only saw twelve minutes of action. He didn't do a whole while on the floor.
Tim Abromaitis filled the scoring void rather admirably. His 24 points led the team and he only needed eleven attempts to get them. Throw in 6 rebounds for a pretty good night.
Ty Nash also played pretty well. He had 16, but was not nearly as much of a force on the boards as Harangody normally is. Just 3 rebounds for the fill-in center.
Off the bench, the Irish really only played two guys. That's a bit of a disadvantage against an opponent that went eleven deep. Carleton Scott ate up a lot of Peoples' floor time, which was good to see. 5 points, 6 rebounds in 27 minutes. Joey Brooks played for a few minutes, as well.
Buckle your seatbelts, it just gets harder from here on in.