Thursday, February 21, 2008

Notre Dame 82, Pittsburgh 70

Wow. A truly special win tonight.

A few quick notes:
  1. Tory Jackson won the game for the Irish today. He could be truly something special by the time he graduates.
  2. Tim Higgins is a pathetic excuse for a referee. The way he handled the Harangody/Blair battle was horrific.
  3. Great win in front of a great crowd on a great night. Nice to see the team stretch the streak to 35 in front of Austin Carr.

In the first half, Tory Jackson showed some flashes of the energy he brought all night. A right hand putback 90 seconds in, a great athletic block two minutes later, just the best hustle on the court. Levance Fields gave Pitt some energy off the bench, showing how much a fully healthy #2 can do for the Panthers. Overall, however, the Irish let Sam Young hit too many jump shots and gave up the offensive glass inside. Down 35-30 at the half.

At halftime, of course, was the Austin Carr tribute. Great to see the 2nd best scorer in college hoops history (behind my personal favorite, Pete Maravich). My favorite quote from his speech: "That was the best experience of my life, playing four years in front of you."

A couple of scribbles from my notebook... Harangody looked uncomfortable on Blair, even with 12 points... Kyle McAlarney was absent, missing open looks and scoring only two points... finally, the Irish needed to up the ante, get to 70+ by the final buzzer.

Beginning the second half, Tory Jackson once again brought his energy to the game. Unfortunately, he was the only one and the Irish quickly fell down 10. A Kyle McAlarney jumper four minutes in cut the lead back to four, but Pitt quickly built up another nine point lead.

Back to Tory. Several leaping offensive rebounds for second chances, driving layups in transition, and a really tough charge taken kept Notre Dame close.

7 minutes left. Kyle McAlarney finally finds his range to hit a three pointer. Puts the Irish back down one. A minute later, another Mac three ties the game. Next possession, Luke Harangody steals the ball at the top of the key and takes it the length of the floor for a thunderous dunk. 5:31 left. Notre Dame lead. Besides one tie, an Irish win the rest of the way.

Overall, a fantastic comeback for the Irish as they used a 20-6 run to take control of the game. Mr. Energy Tory Jackson and Luke Harangody with double-doubles. Loudest the Joyce Center has been this season, maybe the longest all streak.

Tim Higgins and his crew are miserable refs, allowing DeJuan Blair to get away with murder under the basket while calling fouls on clean blocks for the Irish. You always look like a sore loser when you complain about officiating after a loss, so I definitely need to make this point after a win.

Let's break it down individually. Tory Jackson is going to earn a triple-double before he graduates and I thought it would be tonight. Unfortunately, not enough assists to the little guy, but he'll get there. 16 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists. Two of those buckets came on out-of-control drives where he was somehow able to score on a layup. What were turnovers two months ago turned into clutch buckets. His rebounding was tremendous, leaping above much taller guys to grab his first double digit rebounding game of the young career.

Kyle McAlarney was quiet again for a half. When he did score later on, however, those baskets were so clutch. 15 points, 3-10 from beyond the arc. Not the kind of scoring you want to see from him, but those shots were game changers.

Zach Hillesland finished with 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. Played the game out with four fouls, so a smart game for him. Not a huge stat game, but the kind of thing we get from him every day.

Rob Kurz finished with 14 points and 5 assists. What really shone through was the leadership he brings to the floor. Just like Colin Falls, he is another coach out there on the floor.

Luke Harangody. Not a completely dominant game, allowing eight offensive boards to DeJuan Blair, but saying he was poor with 23 points, 12 rebounds is ludicrous. It's a tremendous testiment to his ability to take control of a contest when he can look merely above average with those kind of numbers. Kudos to you Luke.

Off the bench, Zeller and Ayers just didn't provide the needed shooting in the first half. With McAlarney off, one of those two guys has to step up. Ayers hit a timely open three in the second half, but Zeller's 0-3 night is not that great. Jonathan Peoples, flu or no flu, played solid minutes including a great three pointer.

For Pitt, Sam Young was allowed to shoot too much. We needed to force him to drive, but most of those 20 points were jump shots over the defense. Keith Benjamin scored 15 with a great night. He didn't take over the game, but picked up baskets as the defense focused on Young and Blair. The freshman Blair had 14 points and 13 rebounds, 8 on offense. Missed five free throws in his seven attempts. Really was allowed to push people around under the hoop, which took Harangody out of his game a bit.

Off the bench, Levance Fields was clearly an improvement over an awful Ronald Ramon. Fields showed bits and pieces of that ability that led the Panthers while he was healthy. Tyrell Biggs ate big minutes as a big man, but the other two buys off the bench really didn't show a lot.

The Irish outshot Pitt 42%-40%. 33%-28% from three. 41-35 rebounding. Seven more made free throws and 90% from there. Overall a really well played game in which Notre Dame held the advantage ever so slightly in every category.

Great win, but we need to follow it up again on Sunday. Let's have an even better crowd if that is possible. 35 straight, so far. Make it 36.

EDIT: As always, check out, a great site following former high school hoopsters from the New York/New Jersey area. They promised to make K-Mac the lead story if he lit it up tonight. Not quite a dominating performance, but clutch nonetheless.


Anonymous said...

One small Harangody comment: He was stiff tonight, not much elevation, poor touch. He, do I dare say it, whined too much on the no-calls. Some of the no-calls were legit, as he was just pushing into Dejuan looking for the call.

Post-season probably will see big men able to defend 'Gody if he just puts his back against them and bulls to the hoop. Where he appears most effective is when he's moving through the key, then takes the sharp pass, turns on a dime, and goes up to the hoop.

Ditto on Jackson being MVP. He is so consistent with his big plays on both ends of the floor.

Anonymous said...

Andy, though to be fair to Gody - he was getting hammered on both ends of the floor and they weren't calling anything. It wasn't just the ofensive end, I noticed on just about every defensive rebound attempt, he was getting grabbed and thrown - sometimes by both arms. Then they would turn and call some no contact BS on him [his 1st foul on Blair being a good example - there was zero contact].

I agree on the refs B&G. One of the most atrociously officiated games I've seen this year [and there have been a bunch]. The two completely clean blocks by Zack and Rob that got called were ridiculous - not to mention the non-charge call on Young in the lane when bowled over someone in the second half.

But they played through it - that's the important thing.

Craig said...

Harangody definitely let the officiating affect his game, which I think was a big reason he was benched early in the second half.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Luke does often vent his frustrations a bit too much & it can affect his play. One more thing he needs to learn before he should consider the NBA - though I suppose that never stood in Rasheed Wallace's way.

Anonymous said...

I agree on the refs, they swallowed!! Luke wasn't off his game, Blair got away with little grabs and pushes all night and that gets into one's head. They didn't call it down the middle. Blair and Pitt wen t to the line for air fouls while we got pushed and grabbed for naught. It was like watching the refs when Shaq bulls someone for no foual and then flops for a charge later. No matter, guts determination and the 6th man brought it home!!!!

BlackandGreen said...

Luke nearly got T'd up in the second half, but seemed to calm down afterwards. It looked like Gene Cross had a chance to talk to him and get his head back in the game, which is where we need it.