The Irish took control of this game from the beginning and pulled away slowly but surely in a workmanlike effort. Not dominating, but plenty to be proud of after the first real game in the season.
The student section was impressive, if undersized, for the beginning of the year. The band looks nice in their "6th Man" jerseys and those in attendance were loud for their numbers. The "Brey-niacs" in the front row dressed in mock turtlenecks and the video shown on projector screens at both ends of the floor during introductions served to add plenty of character to the Joyce Center.
Long Island was ice cold from the start, which enabled Notre Dame to overcome some early mistakes and not relinquish an early lead. The Blackbirds shot only 28% from the floor and 25% from three-point range. Down considerably from an exhibition win against Queens College, LIU's shooting was the #1 reason for such a large margin of victory tonight. Some credit is certainly due to Notre Dame's defense for shutting down Kotorobai, Hicks, Wisseh, and company.
At the other end of the floor, the Irish were able to connect on their scoring opportunities. Shooting 51% from the floor and 41% from long range. Those percentages are good for the W most nights. ND outrebounded the visitors 48 to 37 and added up 28 assists to 11 turnovers. The A/T ratio was much improved from the second exhibition game, a very good sign. 13 points off turnovers and 10 second-chance points.
Individually, it was nice to see Harangody back in the starting lineup for the first real game of the year. He was poor from the charity stripe, which may indicate that the thumb still bothers him a little. Overall, however, he was pretty much back to his old self. 15 points and 6 rebounds through some great hustle and physical play. He finished with 3 assists, showing the ability to dish the ball under the basket to Rob Kurz when double-teamed.
Kurz was himself with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Nothing too flashy, but was a definite force under the basket. 4 blocks and 3 assists, showing his great ability to make plays on both offense and defense. Keep up the good work, Captain.
Tory Jackson started off poorly with a quick turnover, but was able to right the ship and gain 8 assists to 3 turnovers. He only scored 4 points but also picked up 6 rebounds. He made two of the four shots he attempted. Add in two steals and a great block under the hoop for an overall solid performance. Even if he doesn't show up with lots of points in the scorebook, Tory can control the game with his assists and general game management.
Kyle McAlarney showed his ability to make shots when needed. As Tom Noie mentioned, Kyle is going to be asked to take more shots this season. While he only had five attempts, one was a very confident three from 25' that fell through the hoop nothing but net. He has the talent, but just needs to get used to being the shooter on the floor. Only 7 points today, but also added 7 assists to 2 turnovers.
Ryan Ayers was a little quiet, but made a few good plays. His steal near the beginning of the game was a great result of quick hand-eye coordination and long wingspan. He finished with eight points, including 2 of 4 threes, and 4 rebounds in 24 minutes.
Zach Hillesland was very good off the bench as usual, getting eight points and 7 rebounds in 24 minutes. Not only a good option at the 3, he is a strong defender in the post and could take some minutes from Luke Zeller who failed to impress tonight.
Zeller is 6'10", weighs 239 pounds, and was a four star recruit out of high school. Somehow 6'7", 225 pound Kellen Allen was able to dominate the Irish big man under the hoop. Allen was able to back down Zeller with a couple quick dribbles and hit the turnaround jumper from 6 feet nearly every time down the floor. Allen, who averaged 4 points and 2 rebounds last season, picked up the majority of his 16 points and 6 rebounds when matched up with Luke. Four of those rebounds were on the offensive glass, leading to second chances. Against Kurz or Harangody, Allen was nowhere near as effective. Though he scored 12 points with some solid mid-range jumpers, he was a liability most of the time on the defensive end. Zach Hillesland is certainly looking like a better choice as backup post player with his complete game.
Jonathan Peoples was the 8th man in the rotation, picking up 5 points and 3 offensive rebounds when spelling Jackson and McAlarney. He is a very solid performer and must be gaining Coach Brey's confidence with each game.
I heard some complaints about Brey's use of the bench in today's game. Until 4 minutes remaining in the second half, the Irish stuck to the normal eight-man setup. While this is what will be used in Big East play, it certainly makes sense to get others involved in early matchups after the outome has been decided. I understand the reasoning in getting the core of the team time to gel in the first real contest. However, once the lead hit twenty it would have been perfectly reasonable to get Ty Nash and Tim Abromitis in the contest. Not a huge complaint of mine, but we'll get more into that latter.
Nash and Abro received four minutes a piece. Both scored and looked fluid on the floor. Nash is the more game-ready of the two, but I was certainly impressed with Abromitis' play. I think both can contribute enough to be given some more opportunities before Big East play. Proffitt and Scott could both redshirt. Scott is the more likely to be held out, but I didn't even notice Proffitt on the bench tonight. It could have just been me.
Overall, it's great to start off the year with a win. Friday starts off the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands against Monmouth. Hopefully the boys can enjoy some nice weather and get a few wins. I'll preview the tournament later in the week.
Also, after USC and Kentucky fell from the Top 25 due to upsets, Indiana overcame a halftime deficit to beat Tennessee-Chattanooga. I'll have to save my jokes about Kelvin Sampson being so distraught that he actually won't answer phone calls for another day. Oh, well.
Have a good one.