Somehow, this team just keeps getting it done. The Irish controlled the pace once again and will play in the Big East semis tomorrow. Hopefully this will help us avoid that dreaded 8/9 game in the NCAAs.
ND overcame a nine minute drought without a field goal and only scored 18 in the second half, but was able to come up with consecutive stops with the game on the line. Tory Jackson led the team with 12 points, going 4-6 from beyond the arc. One of those was an ultra-clutch bucket with 3:30 left that put the Irish up 6 when we couldn't manage a point for two full minutes. His classmate Harangody also scored 12 but was not quite as efficient as we saw last night.
54.5% from the field, 46.2% beyond the arc, a very hot night shooting. The Panthers relied on eight offensive rebounds to keep this one close all night, but only managed to shoot 37% for the game. Another strong defensive effort for the Irish.
Tory only took one attempt inside the arc. He shot lights out on those three-pointers, however, and showed a ton of confidence in his ability to just step up off the dribble and knock a few shots down.
Ben Hansbrough has had some trouble getting his points off of the slower pace the last few games. He has just two made three pointers and has not scored in double-figures since our win against Georgetown. 5 points tonight with 3 assists. He also racked up 4 fouls. However, he and Tory have done a very nice job forcing the team to slow down. On multiple occasions, he was the guy to motion to his teammates to hold the ball. Good leadership.
Tim Abromaitis continued his offensive struggles. He only attempted five shots (one three pointer) and wound up with 7 points. Like Hansbrough, he isn't getting his looks in the "burn" offense, but has stepped it up a bit on D. His two blocks were SportsCenter-worthy and took a pair of easy buckets from the Panthers.
Carleton Scott had foul trouble again tonight, scoring 6 points before fouling out. He made all three of the shots he attempted but just managed to pull down one rebound.
Ty Nash impressed with his tenacity on the blocks. While Harangody forgets to post-up from time to time (more on that later), Nash manages to put his body on someone every time on the floor. In the first half, he racked up a career-high 6 assists by distributing the ball out of the low block. He also managed 8 points and 6 rebounds for a very strong stat line, especially in such a slow contest. The one big negative in his performance was his 2-6 line from the charity stripe. A couple more of those free points could have been vital at the end.
Luke showed off a bit of his frustrating old self again off the bench. He picked up an offensive foul by driving to the post with his head down in double coverage, took a few bad jumpers, and completely forgot to use his body in the post for several long stretches. That final note was most frustrating to watch. Harangody's post-ups led to many of his points last night, but on several possessions tonight he just stood around looking lost. He needs to watch how Nash uses his body every chance he gets on offense. Of course, beyond the negative points Harangody had a very solid game. 12 points on a decent 4-9 shooting. Just a pair of rebounds, but there weren't a ton to be had.
Jonathan Peoples also played off the bench. I only know that because he picked up one foul.
And now we are headed to the Big East semifinals, matching the deepest run ever by a Notre Dame team. The winning streak is six and shows no signs of stopping. "Burn" might be a boring offense to watch, but I hope we never go back to the old run-and-gun style. This has been incredibly effective.