Thursday, January 03, 2008

Notre Dame 69, West Virginia 56

Yes! Luke Harangody is quickly becoming one of the best in the nation and put the Irish over the top tonight.

Even with under 10,000 in attendance for the game, there was a great sense of excitement for everyone on the team.

Coach Rod Balanis led cheers from the bench and Mike Brey nearly pulled a muscle with fist pumps on the bench throughout the contest as the Irish took control early and never let go.

Smalligan, the Mountaineers' 7 foot center, turned out to be a poor man's Kevin Pittsnogle, playing only 17 minutes and failing to be a force in the center. Joe Alexander and the other second choices for West Virginia were shut down and Notre Dame only allowed one player (Ruoff) to score double digits tonight.

Alex Ruoff dropped 18, but it was a team effort slowing him down. My predictions were completely off, as Jackson never covered Ruoff and Ryan Ayers rarely played against Alexander. Instead, just about every player on the team got a shot at #22 and played a role in keeping him from getting more than what he did. The great man defense by Ayers, Kurz, Hillesland and others on Ruoff allowed the other four guys to shut down their individual guys and keep West Virginia to only 56 points tonight.

West Virginia showed no inside game and Bamm-Bamm went off. The Mountaineers are built to hit open shots outside off of screens. The only points in the paint came off of cuts and drives from the outside. This allowed Notre Dame's sophomore forward to score inside and play shut down defense under the basket.

There was obviously more physical play, with players on both teams hitting the deck all night. Great to see our guys diving for loose balls all game and showing the intensity we may have lacked against some of the cupcakes in December.

To the individuals. Tory Jackson has the confidence of a seasoned vet. It's uncanny. The 5'10" guard who entered the contest shooting 13% from beyond the arc for the season stepped up and drilled two huge treys. Finishing 5-10 from the floor for 12 points in only 24 minutes, he was a great boost to the offense. Even with foul trouble (he finished with 4), Jackson hustled every second of the game. Great to see him get some points to go with the assists (not great in that category, only 2 with 6 turnovers). He has serious guts and I was very impressed with those big time buckets.

Kyle McAlarney was cold again, but it was nice to see us succeed without his shooting. Like Colin Falls, he will have some great nights and some ugly ones. Today was pretty ugly, but he took control of the offense in Tory's absence and went back to that point guard mentality to get the win. Only 7 points on 3-11, but 9 assists and one turnover in a bad team TO night. The savvy junior was able to completely change his outlook and do what he needed to help the team.

Ryan Ayers had another solid night all around. Hit two big threes in the beginning of the contest and finished with 8 points. 5 rebounds to go with that and defended Ruoff well down the stretch.

Rob Kurz grabbed 13 rebounds with 8 points. Did a great job cleaning up the boards to help out with...

Luke Harangody. Wow. 29 points, 16 rebounds (5 on offense), 7-8 from the line, played through a back injury and a bloody leg. He moved bodies under the hoop and was clearly the best post player. A couple times went head to head against Smalligan and did not look 4 inches shorter at all. It will be really fun to watch him against the rest of the conference's big men. Great job, Luke.

Zach Hillesland gave a good 20 minutes, the most off the bench. 5 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, all hustle. He gave the team a bit of a boost and was successful as the third big man tonight. Luke Zeller pushed some guys around in his seven minutes, the first I've seen that physical play. Peoples had a quiet 8 minutes. Really a lot of time for our starters tonight.

Lots of ugly turnovers, 20 to West Virginia's 9. Not at all how we wanted to perform handling the ball tonight. We were able to defeat the Mountaineers by making 9 more free throws, grab 13 more rebounds, and and outshoot WVU 48% to 32%. Gody's 11 for 16 sure boosted that last number. The 43 rebounds, including 11 offensive, came on the backs of Kurz and Harangody. We gave up 12 offensive boards to West Virginia, many of them early, which supplied them with too many second chances. Other than that, however, it was a complete performance from the entire squad, especially without relying on a great shooting night by Mac.

Big win. That's the way to start the conference season. Time to get back to work and put UCONN away late Saturday night and keep the streak alive!


Anonymous said...

Good game tonight, especially on the boards. However, we did terrible handling their pressure with 20 turnovers. Jackson was killing us. The crowd did have some spirit though.

BlackandGreen said...

Tory definitely forced the issue too much tonight. He had been showing some improvement this year and was very good down the stretch last season, so let's hope tonight was the exception rather than the rule. It was nice to see him contibute something other than his normal game, but he must be much better with the ball next time out.

20 turnovers is of course way too high and I doubt we'll ever reach that again, but it was nice to see us succeed against a good team with a bad night handling the ball. However, if Tory has another bad night Saturday, I could see Coach Brey going to McAlarney for the regular ball handling duties after looking so cool tonight. I hope that won't be the case, however, and let's hope Tory bounces right back.

BlackandGreen said...

Crazy night in the Big East as 'Nova falls to DePaul. A win Saturday would jettison the Irish to the top tier of the conference.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the fact that you try to keep this blog all about the performance on the court, but not a word about the Bob Huggins' first Big East appearance?!?

Let's give the man a little slack, though. He's not used to being in an environment where the players actually attend class, learn, and -- gasp -- graduate.

BlackandGreen said...

Ha, very good point. It was a very big night for Huggins, coaching his first game in the Big East (he could have been in the conference had he stayed a couple of months at Cincinnati). In addition, it was his first league coaching his alma mater.

All around a pretty big night for a guy who has coached for 30 years and won 600 games.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the team was at their best with a big lineup with Kurz, Harangody, Ayers and Hillesland on the court together.

Bryan said...

Bob Huggins, besides being an overrated coach, also had a DUI a few years ago and wasn't fired for it. That's enough for me to loathe him and any school he's at. The fact he ended up at WVA, one of my least favorite school for a nunber of reasons, is fitting. And he deserved no 'mention'/tribute/whatever you wanted for his first BE game

BlackandGreen said...

Regarding the lineup with the four bigs, that really was an intriging squad. Obviously Hillesland is the best player we have off the bench and Ayers is starting to grab rebounds and display his solid defense in addition to the great shooting that earned him the starting nod.

Though we have such a short bench with only six real contributors (go 8 deep, but Zeller and Peoples haven't earned more than a few minutes here and there), the variety of looks we can give with those guys is encouraging. Jackson and McAlarney give the us normal backcourt, with two smallish guards, but guys like Ayers and Hillesland can go anywhere from the 2 to the 4.

Anonymous said...

Great game. The crowd was really into it. I can't wait until the students come back, then it will really be fun.

Way too many turnovers- but it was fun to see Tory sink the 2 treys, just whne we needed them.

Keep up the good work on this blog...its a fun read.

Craig said...

A couple of things stood out when I watched the (somewhat abbreviated) replay from ESPNU this evening.

First was that Tory wasn't the only player in foul trouble. Alexander, normally WVU's second scoring option after Ruoff, was subbed out with two fouls with about 10 minutes left in the first half, and he wound up seven points below his average. The foul trouble had to figure in that.

Second was that Ruoff went without a point for almost all of the last fifteen minutes of the game. He got to 16 pts with about 15 minutes left, he got to 18 pts on a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left.

BlackandGreen said...

Great point on Ruoff. I missed that during the game. Ayers was the guy on him down the stretch, so most of the credit has to go to him. Great job shutting down their main threat and avoiding another late game meltdown.