Was tonight sweet or what? A big win on the road against a very good opponent. The Irish were without their best inside threat and a fouled out Colin Falls near the end. The lead did slip a bit, but at Syracuse any win counts.
The most noticable difference in tonight's game is the score. I mentioned how impressed I was at how the Irish won a low scoring contest vs. 'Nova. Tonight was back to a good old barn burner.
First, Russell Carter. 18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 of 7 from long range. Just another very good performance from a top Big East talent. He ended with a wee bit of foul trouble, but had another very good night overall.
It is great to see Colin Falls contributing regularly again. 16 points on 4 of 10 shooting from deep. Also, 4 assists. His overall FG% finished a touch above Carter's. When he can produce like that, Falls provides a great 1-2 punch with Russell.
Tory Jackson was very, very solid tonight. 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals. Where did he contribute most tonight? At the line, 11 for 14. Previously perceived as a weakness in late games, Tory did everything a point guard needs to do on the road. His 19 points were a career high, but most important was the way he handled himself under pressure. Great job.
To the other freshman, what can I say about Luke Harangody? Bamm-Bamm has looked a bit shaky in recent contests. Tonight, #44 was as rock solid as a four year starter. 21 points. 13 rebounds. Only 24 minutes! He is a serious basketball player. Without Rob Kurz and having Bamm-Bamm in foul trouble, the Irish were without a respected inside presence for far too many minutes tonight. However, when the freshman was on the court, ND dominated the paint. Notre Dame would not win tonight without a solid game by Harangody. He was a lot more than solid.
Zach Hillesland got a much deserved first career start in a big conference matchup. He's not really a big guy, 226 pounds, and looks even skinnier in person. Somehow the lightweight from Toledo grabbed 9 rebounds against a veteran Syracuse front court. He also scored 14 and tossed out four assists. We will see a lot more of him next season, but right now he is a perfect addition off the bench.
Ryan Ayers played a good 20 minutes. Seven points, a steal, a block, and a rebound. Most importantly, the sophomore is starting to make his shots when he gets the opportunity. I would love to see Ryan give Hillesland a run for the starting small forward spot next year.
Luke Zeller sure doesn't seem to be a great fit down low. Tonight was a big game for him to step up, but LZ picked up four fouls in twelve minutes and was unable to provide more than a few minutes here and there. Nice to see him be physical, but a foul every three minutes is too much.
Jonathan Peoples made a three, but was otherwise on the bench all night.
Big, big win for the Irish that more than offsets the St. John's loss. The team should ride the wave to South Florida (maybe some Super Bowl festivities?) and hopefully a road trip sweep. Everything is back on track after a rough January.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
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It seems it's always difficult to use the Cuse game as any sort of measuring stick b/c we usually only play them once a year and they play that funky zone defense on us.
However, I share your enthusiasm about the play of Jackson and Harongody. This road game should give them a boost when they face DePaul, Providence and Marquette.
I see Ayers sort of developing as a three point threat (particularly with Carter and Falls graduating). We'll need someone next year to shoot over the zone, and be a constant perimeter threat.
Hillesland should still start and stay at small forward because of his all-around game. He's really versatile and a smart player.
Actually, the 'Cuse is one of the more consistent home & away Big East opponents. If nothing else, this is a huge mental victory, since ND has only beaten the Orange once in the past 10 tries until tonight:
01/11/06 vs. Syracuse Joyce Center L, 88-82
01/10/2005 Syracuse Joyce Center L, 70-61
02/05/2005 Syracuse Carrier Dome L, 60-57
01/17/04 Syracuse* Joyce Center ESPN2 L, 81-70
02/16/04 Syracuse* Carrier Dome ESPN W, 84-72
02/15/2003 Syracuse Carrier Dome ESPN L, 82-80
03/04/2003 Syracuse Joyce Center ESPN2 L, 92-88
01/14/2002 Syracuse Syracuse, N.Y. ESPN L, 56-51
02/17/2002 Syracuse Notre Dame, Ind. ABC L, 68-65
01/02/2001 Syracuse* Syracuse, N.Y. ESPN L, 79-70
Zach had a double double... 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. The box scores are correct for him but the AP write-up was off.
The double-double is big news for Zach, and well deserved. Syracuse is traditionally a really tough matchup for us, especially the last few years against McNamara and Co.
Small forward should be an interesting position to watch. Just about every other starting spot is locked up (providing both Jackson and McAlarney start). Hillesland has the better overall game, but without Falls and with both Kurz and Harangody in the lineup to rebound, more outside scoring ability will be needed. If Ayers keeps showing the ability to hit the three, he could be the guy. Still, both will get a lot of minutes.
Hugh, important win that should go a long way to establish some credibility with seeding...
Of course, now i'll get ahead of myself, and speculate: What is the 'seeding ceiling' for this ND team?
Right now, 11-5 isn't that farfetched, so assuming 1-1 in BET gets you to 12-6 and most likely a 5-6 seed depending on the breaks.
Historically, any team that makes a decent run in the BET gets bumped up a few notches (WVA in 05 (bubbleteam to 7 seed), SJU in 2000 (2 seed), Cuse last year)...So that, coupled with a HUGE upset vs Marquette and/or beating Pitt/Marquette in the tourney could be enough to vaunt them to a 4 seed/protected seed...
That said, Beat South Florida
very impressive to get a win like that without Kurz. With the passing of each game, I become more and more comfortable with Tory Jackson running the offense, as he himself has settled in nicely. It feels so good to contemplate again a possible seed in the tournament based on how we finish, havent been able to do that for a few years...
I agree with Andy that it's kinda tough to judge just from playin Syracuse, if just because they play a wacky defense. But I like where we stand, especially with Ayers on perimeter. I see good things with him...
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