Saturday, January 27, 2007

'Nova: Act Two

Great, great win today. Lots of fun being in the Joyce, with the loudest atmosphere since Alabama. The boys fought back and held on for an important 66-63 win.

In the first half, one ref (either Bernard Clinton, John Gaffney, or Tim Higgins, I don't know them by sight) made some awfully pro-'Nova calls. Two were overturned by the other men in stripes and several others brought Mike Brey to his feet to yell at the one official in particular. Those calls cost the Irish 4-6 first half points, easy. The second half was equally as horrid, although bad to both sides. Villanova racked up 7 fouls in 3:09 to start the second half. Please, just let the players play.

Notre Dame came out of the locker rooms wearing the Alabama unis (black and white, sans last name). The first half saw only three ND players make shots from the floor, with Colin Falls scoring 10. 'Nova pulled well ahead twice, but the Irish were able to cut back into leads by making strong defensive stands. The last three minutes of the first half passed without a Villanova basket.

In the second half, The Wildcats lead by as much as seven, but a 9-1 run but ND ahead by one and made it a game. Notre Dame was able to control the last 2:30 and should have put the visiting team away, but still held on to win by 3.

We start, as usual, with Russell Carter. Russ had a really tough night from the floor, three of eleven, but most evident was his attitude. With no apparent injury, our star player rode the bench for the final key minutes of the game. When last taken off the floor, Gene Cross had a few stern words for the young man. Such a poor attitude is unacceptable for a senior, especially such a key player. However, being able to win a close game without an All-Big East talent on the floor is very impressive.

Congratulations, Colin Falls. With Carter having an off night in a must-win game against a stern defense, you stepped up. 6 of 11 shooting is nice, add in eight free throws to almost equal a season high. We need some production out of him every night, and this marks his fourth straight conference game scoring in double figures. The captain played all forty minutes and proved to be a strong psychological boost to the squad even when the deficit grew.

Yawn, another double-double for Rob Kurz. He was able to bounce back well from a tough night at St. John's. Did rack up four fouls, but never backed down inside.

Luke Harangody continues to struggle a bit shooting, but grabbed seven rebounds. One of six from the floor is not very good for a post player and he needs to not shy away from contact. After getting hacked a few times and not getting calls, the freshman seemed a get a little timid and was unable to score effectively.

The point guard battle promised to be rather interesting with two talented freshmen. Scottie Reynolds is obviously the better player at this point in their respective careers. Tory Jackson was unable to provide a scoring threat and only assisted in four baskets. Jackson did turn the ball over only once to Reynolds' two, and also kept the Villanova guard from being an even bigger impact on offense (held to 5-14 shooting).

Zach Hillesland is Mr. Everything once again. While not providing much of a shooting threat, Hillesland grabbed seven rebounds and made four foul shots. He gets 20 minutes a night, but I wish we could see the sophomore a little more to start off the game. His hustle and sheer will is what drives his stat line and he seems to energize the other players around him.

Ryan Ayers finally made some case for more playing time. With the game on the line, Ayers made a key three-pointer and hit two of three foul shots to give the Irish 5 points when they needed it most. Should be a boost to his confidence, especially since he was seemed to struggle with an unwillingness to take shots in the past.

On the opposing bench, I would say that Curtis Sumpter is just about back from his injury. I certainly didn't expect to see Villanova's best player for more than a few minutes at a time off the bench. With Dante Cunningham in foul trouble, Sumpter played a full ten minute stretch early in the second half and ended the night with a double double. Frosh Scottie Reynolds showed some of the talent displayed against Texas and us previously, but was unable to really take over due to a good effort by Tory Jackson defensively. He still scored 19.

Overall, really strong defense and physical play lead to poor shooting by both teams. The Irish finished a hair under 35% and had the same number of rebounds as 'Nova. This win makes 17 on the year and will prove to be really big later on. Halfway through the Big East schedule, ND is 5-3 and can go .500 the rest of the way to lock up a NCAA bid. The win avoids a losing streak and gives a little momentum going into Syracuse and a three game road trip. It also revenges a previous loss to a very good team. Congrats to the guys for a stellar performance, and good luck Tuesday.


Anonymous said...

Great site!

A much needed win by the Irish, and it was great to see the team come from behind.

However, while I don't have the stats in front of me, it sure looked like a very sloppy game from an ND perspective. Whether it was turnovers, rebounds bouncing off of our hands, or getting caught in the air with no place to go. This team has got to take better care of the ball.

You're right on Reynolds - he was the fastest player I've seen in a long time and a few times he took the ball right at 2 or 3 ND players and drove right past them for layups.

Bryan said...

Still gotta disagree with 9-7 (.500 rest of way) being enough to get in. 10-6 is an absolute MUST (and quite attainable with the Nova win). I'll always believe the committee has an anti-ND bias when it comes to ND bubbleteams.

Consider the last 2 Irish bubble teams:

2005 ND: 17-11 (9-7) Beat unbeaten BC, Sweet 16 Villanova, Elite 8 WVU, and UConn. Lost to Michigan, UCLA, GT, DePaul, and then Rutgers in BET RPI 60 (This team didn't deserve to make it b/c of that Rutgers loss (which starting my Brey hatred, mostly b/c I was at that game), but teams with similiar resumes have gotten in since.)

2004 17-12 (9-7) Beat #25 Syracuse, Beat #7 UConn, UCLA, and playing Pitt & Unconn twice Lost to Marquette & Indiana with no othe awful losses. Won a Game in the BET. (A cut & dry bubble team that was past over)

A similiar thing also happened in 2000, 18-14 (8-8) when ND beat UConn twice, SJU, Ohio St, Seton Hall, with few bad losses, won a BET game, and got screwed by the committee...

While each case must be taken year to year, there is tons of evidence that ND needs to have 20 wins and 10 BE wins to even consider being in the tourney

BlackandGreen said...

A big thing that this edition of the Irish has over the others will be 20 wins with a 9-7 conference record. It's a lot easier to pass over 17 win team than a 20-9 school. However, the Irish should definitely get 10, which would mean that the committee could look at 9 wins as underachieving. Of course, we leave out the BET, which was the deciding factor in '04. A one-and-done in New York must be avoided no matter what the record ends up becoming.

As for the sloppiness on Sunday, it was a very tight defensive battle. Both squads struggled and the pace definitely helped the road team. I think winning this way says a lot about the Irish, who had previously made a living scoring a lot of points.

Anonymous said...

You write very well.