Thursday, February 28, 2008

Louisville 90, Notre Dame 85

Burn the blue jerseys.

A great press by the Cardinals put the game away early and almost made this one embarrassing. Somehow this Irish team found a way to come back and keep the final score respectable. A 5 point loss at Freedom Hall is certainly the best we could have hoped for after the opening minutes.

And Luke Harangody is flat out amazing.

We'll start with the most positive news first. If there was any doubt, Bamm-Bamm will be the Big East Player of the Year this season. A first team All America bid is also very possible. We've known for a quite a while that Luke could knock down jump shots with increasing range. His shooting ability has improved with regularity and he was bound to sink the first three pointer of his career sooner or later. He made 3 of 4 tonight. 40 points, a career high, and yet another double-double with 12 boards. Simply put, the best game of his college career. We will see even more impressive performances this season and hopefully for two more years. Here's to the brightest star on the court, even in a losing effort.

Kyle McAlarney needs to be successful for this team to win against the upper-tier opponents in the nation. 3-14 and 1-8 from three-point range did not get the job done. The lone made three pointer came with three minutes left as the Irish pulled out all the stops in a frantic attempt to somehow come back. Mac's had poor games in the past and Sunday against Syracuse is a perfect example of his great ability, but we go into games with only a half loaded arsenal if Kyle isn't shooting well.

Tory Jackson struggled, as did the whole team against a great Louisville defense. 5 turnovers to his 5 assists. Only 3 points. Made some poor decisions against the press and bad passes down the court. However, for long stretches he was the only player in a blue jersey trying to create out there. His driving ability is hands-down the best on the team and he is the only player who can jump-start the offense when it becomes stagnant. Not a good night overall, but still nice to see his effort.

Zach Hillesland had his normal game. 7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists. No really big numbers, but solid across the board. Was decent guarding Williams, but lacks the athleticism to be lock down defender. Only played 18 minutes, but that was more due to Ryan Ayers' great performance than anything else.

Rob Kurz scored 9 points and picked up 8 rebounds before fouling out. Also dished out 5 assists, tied for the lead in the game. He does so many little things well and the assist stat is an interesting thing to note. Not a bruiser like Harangody or most inside players in this league. However, he can be a solid high post guy with that jumper and high basketball IQ. A very good complement to Harangody overall.

Off the bench, Ryan Ayers was much improved. A career high 17 on 6-9 shooting (5-6 from downtown). I have mentioned before that Ayers needs to step up when McAlarney is unable to score. He finally did that tonight. Was the only other Notre Dame player in double figures and picked up 5 rebounds to boot. Hopefully this game will give him confidence so that we see more of that in the future. Jonathan Peoples provided a decent 15 minutes, with 3 assists and 3 turnovers, but didn't make a case for anything more than a backup point guard. Luke Zeller didn't show up on the stat sheet in 7 minutes.

First of all, we should take pride in scoring the second most points against a very good defense (Seton Hall scored 92, so don't get cocky). A great comeback by a gutsy team that could have given up after being buried early. Outrebounded the Cardinals, better percentage from the line, and a fantastic performance by the star forward.

However, the Irish zone allowed tons of open looks from outside. Louisville, a solid overall three point shooting team with a few dead-eye guards, knocked down everything from beyond the arc. Allowing 47% will not win basketball games. The Cardinals were able to use great passing and athleticism to tear apart both the 3-2 and 2-3 zone defenses. David Padgett had his best game of the year, scoring 26.

Falling behind by 18 less than halfway through the first period is simply unacceptable. The inability to break the Louisville press led to transition buckets for them and failed possessions for us. When the visitors ware able to right the ship and hold the home team without a point for five minutes, there was still not enough offensive firepower to put much of a dent into the lead. Despite only allowing 8 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half, the Irish trailed by 15 at the break.

The second half was much improved overall and Luke Harangody continued his develoment as a star player. Of course, it helped when the shots started to fall from beyond the arc. That two pronged attack helped the Irish outscore Louisville 58-48 the rest of the way. The final eight made field goals were three pointers, somehow keeping this game competitive until the final whistle.

Overall a 5 point loss at a team that increasingly looks like the favorite for regular season conference champ is not a problem. Especially considering the alternative, the 20-30 point trouncing that seemed probable early in this contest.

If we win the final three games of the year (heavily favored in each contest) a solid seeding in the NCAAs and bye in the BET should be sewn up. The conference tournament title is the one you want anyways, and I would not shy away from a rematch with Louisville in Madison Square Garden.

Losing is never fun and much of this game looked plain awful. However, the team fought very hard to comeback and nearly pulled off an incredible feat. Luke Harangody continues to write his chapter in Notre Dame lore and this team will get respect for their great effort on national television.

21-6, 11-4. Beat DePaul Sunday.


BlackandGreen said...

In the other big matchup tonight, #9 Wisconsin beat #15 Michigan State 57-42.

Much more interesting in the Big East.

Anonymous said...

One of the weirdest-feeling games I've ever watched, partly because I taped it while at work, watched Lost live, and didn't flip on the game until 10:00.

I've never seen us throw up so many crooked jumpers as we did in the first half-- most of them looked off right out of the shooters' hands.

For the entire second half, I couldn't shake the feeling that the game was hopeless-- but simultaneously, feeling a run would put us right back in it. Never has the difference between a 12-point and 15-point deficit seemed so large.

And the big guy's unbelievable. Loving the thought of the next two years. But let's win out first.

Evilmonkeycma said...

But if L'ville loses @G'town, G'town loses @Marquette, and all other games for the top 4 go as planned, then there is a 4-team co-championship! We're not out of this yet.

BlackandGreen said...

4-team co-championship... certainly would be a fitting end to this conference season.

I have to agree with Joe about the 2nd half. Most of the time I was simply hoping to make the game respectable, but a little hope would flare up every time we hit a couple shots in a row. Truly remarkable last few minutes.

Golden Monkey said...

Louisville could be a final four team? There is know doubt we can score against anyone, but our defense is suspect at best. Against the good teams we are not as athletic. In the same breath I think this team has a chance to make it to the sweet sixteen or beyond. They just seem to have that will to succeed. No shame in last nights defeat, lets finish strong and give em hell in the tournament.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all comments. In a sense, this was a dose of medicine for Brey and his team that will help them prepare for the NCAA tourney. They will undoubtedly face full court pressure and more athletic teams. Better to get some medicine last night so Brey and the boys can figure out what to do (and of course what not to do...crooked shots, Kyle being tentative, way too many turnovers).

BlackandGreen said...

Louisville is a very good basketball team. I hate to anoint any school a "final four team" with how many variables there are in tournament play, but the Cardinals could certainly compete with just about anyone.

And if there is anything as a "good" loss we saw it last night. Obviously there were plenty of things that went wrong and plenty of problems to fix. However, much better to have a game like that now than in a couple weeks.

Anonymous said...

That Game was Awesome that Notre Dame played I watched the whole game. Harangody played his best game I believe! Harangody is my favorite player! I am looking forward to the Depaul Game! And ND will go far in the Ncaa Tournament!