My apologies about the late post. I'm a little pressed for time so this one will be a little shorter than normal.
It was obvious that the Irish had been off for two weeks. After a great opening 15 minutes of inspired play and hustle, Notre Dame slogged to the finish. We neither played poorly enough to put the outcome seriously in doubt or well enough to get out of the eight-man rotation.
It was nice to see Tory Jackson back. He injured his elbow in the last contest before finals, but came out of the gate with a vengeance today. Always looking to run, Jackson was creative in transition and led to several fast break points. He did make a few mistakes as he is prone to do, but finished with 15 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds in his best overall game of the year. Did turn the ball over six times, but was the spark behind the Irish offense when things were going well.
Kyle McAlarney started hot as the Irish got off to a big early lead, but only finished with 14 points on 3 of 10 shooting. Was solid from the charity stripe, making 6 of 7, but the Dons successfully took him out of the picture for extended periods on offense. Probably the least effective 37 minutes he has played this season, though it is not all his fault. The team as a whole will need to do a better job getting him open looks against Big East competition.
Ryan Ayers finished with only 9 points on 3-8 from the field. 3 rebounds, nothing else. With Mac being held to a poor shooting night, we need Ryan to step it up and get those points from the outside.
Luke Harangody carried the team tonight. 23 points, 10 rebounds while having half the San Francisco team on his back the whole night. Really poor officiating contributed to the lackluster performance somewhat. The Dons were able to hack Bamm-Bamm down low with impunity, leading to some failed possessions. They did rack up 24 fouls for the game, but many more could have been called.
Rob Kurz quietly did his job once again. 12 points, 8 rebounds. Nothing flashy, but everything he did was needed tonight.
Zach Hillesland contributed 8 points and 4 rebounds off the bench. Jonathan Peoples had two assists without turning the ball over. Coach Brey experimented with a three guard lineup a little bit: Mac, Jackson, and Peoples. While it gives the team a little more speed and agility on defense, it takes away too much from our attack. Luke Zeller had a rebound and missed a three point attempt.
Overall, the Irish looked like a team that hadn't played in a while. You always want to crush these cupcakes, but San Francisco played well and we just didn't lay it all out there tonight. There need to be some adjustments, but I wouldn't be too concerned about the future. Shoot 46%, turn the ball over 14 times, and you should just be happy with the win tonight.
A couple comments about the coaching. Coach Brey has a ton of confidence in his team's ability to fix problems by themselves. While that is encouraging, it should not be overdone. He could have called timeouts when the lead got close, but counted on his leaders to take control and calm things down. Personally, I have to think that he would have been more proactive against a better opponent. He knew the on-court lessons would be important for later and was satisfied with an eight point win provided it helps the team down the road. Similarly, he stayed primarily in man-to-man defense against a terrible perimeter shooting team. Though most coaches would switch to a zone look to cut down on drives to the basket, Brey counted on his players to stop the Don players one-on-one. While this may have contributed to San Francisco getting back in the contest, the hope is that the players will build the confidence and self-reliance to win close games down the road. That's the theory, at least.
A week until the next game against Brown. I have plenty of confidence that the team will come back and look forward to another big win after Christmas. Until then...