Saturday, February 02, 2008

Notre Dame 89, DePaul 80

Gotta love Luke Harangody...

First of all, thanks to all the coaches who got out of the normal dress shoes for Coaches vs. Cancer National Awareness Weekend. Coach Brey has always been a big spokesman of the search for a cure. Jay Wright of Villanova went all out, ditching the three-piece suit for a warmup in the Wildcats' loss to Syracuse. Certainly a great effort by the NABC every year.

To the game. Coach Brey has a pretty warm relationship with Jery Wainwright, which makes this series special for both coaches involved (mock turtleneck connection, perhaps?). It was the 97th meeting overall for the two rivals, with the Irish holding a 52-44 advantage.

300 pounder Wesley Green got the start for the Blue Demons tonight. He sure is a big fella. Showed a little range banking in a three from the top of the key in addition to an eight rebound performance. Wainwright, the used car salesman look-alike, did a great job with the DePaul game plan. The Blue Demons tried to run the floor after every Notre Dame basket, killing lots of potential runs in their infancy. The super-hot DePaul shooters knocked down more than their fair share of three-pointers (48%), single-handedly keeping this game from turning into a rout. While the Irish gave up a lot of points on quick fast breaks after scoring, I really can't fault ND's concentration too much. If DePaul had shot their season average (34%) from beyond the arc, those breaks would have given the ball back to Irish quickly and this would have been a 15-20 point win. Sometimes a team gets hot and makes all those contested shots.

Tory Jackson had another very good offensive night. 8 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. Though he didn't end up with double figures scoring, Jackson was able to break down the defense with his drives. Hit the offensive boards with tenacity and never gave up under the basket. His four steals kept the momentum in favor of the Irish and show how much the sophomore hustled tonight.

Kyle McAlarney was cold again. When most shooters fail to connect early in the game, a coach would frown on taking 13 attempts from beyond the arc. However, we know how golden Mac is when he gets hot. His consistent effort to take those deep looks resulted in points down the stretch and gave the team a boost. 17 points, but only 5-17 shooting. Great to see the Irish win another game without a huge performance from the shooting guard. If he is going to have a cold night, better against DePaul than in the BET or NCAAs. 6 assists, 1 turnover as well. Great job handling the ball.

Zach Hillesland played very well in 21 minutes. 10 points, 5 rebounds. We know he's always going to split time with Ryan Ayers, but he gives us such a lift when on the floor. Had a nice dunk and great left-handed putback when crashing the glass on offense. Great energy and attitude.

Rob Kurz is so solid. 8 points, 12 rebounds. Really needed that double-figure output from him as the Irish were seriously outshot. Winning the rebounding battle won us the game tonight. Therefore have to give the props to Rob...

...and Luke Harangody. Who doesn't love this guy? Has my vote for Big East Player of the Week after a 29 and 14 performance tonight. May even end up with Player of the Year, but let's not look too far ahead yet. 10 of those boards were offensive, giving the Irish much-needed second chances. 9-12 from the line, another very solid night for the big man. Such an anchor down low and is starting to get the national attention he very much deserves.

Off the bench, I really like Ryan Ayers. His mindset is really starting to change and he is looking to take more opportunities when on the floor. Before, the game had to come to him. Now, he takes his shots and looks to contribute. Deserved the 32 minutes tonight and will hopefully continue to develop as a scorer. Had a pretty dunk as well (honestly didn't know he could do that). Luke Zeller had 6 points in 7 minutes. Nice for him to contribute well in limited playing time. Jonathan Peoples had a fairly productive 11 minutes, but not much to show for it.

The 3-2 zone that Coach Brey has brought back out of the attic works pretty well. I like having Ayers on the top using his wingspan to take away passes. The refs, Jim Burr (wince...), Wally Rutecki, and J.D. Collins, were consistently bad, so not a lot to complain about. Certainly could have called a much tighter game, but we got away with as much as they did.

How can you not love this team's attitude? After watching how the squad responded to each other, I can't help but be happy that Alex Legion chose to go elsewhere. This is such a special group of individuals. Their combined hustle (just about every player ended up on the floor at one point or another) and love of the game (Mac, Hillesland, Jackson, and Ayers all went nuts after making key shots) is tremendous. Watching Kyle slap the floor after a key three-pointer in the first half was great. Just a really quality bunch of guys.

Obviously, the outcome was a little too close for comfort. Got back to DePaul shooting 14 points higher than average from beyond the arc to see how this game was so close. The Blue Demons outshot the Irish 49% to 43% and made two extra field goals. Also had three extra 3-pointers. Again, the Irish were great from the line (17-20- 85%). Only turned the ball over eight times, a nice trip back below 10 for that statistic. Also finished with 11 more rebounds and 18 on the offensive glass. When you beat a team that had such a great shooting night, you have to take the win no matter the opponent.

So we travel to Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Pirates won 5 in a row before losing to Georgetown tonight. Go Irish!

EDIT- You may have noticed a lack of posting for With all these games on Saturday, it's tough to get two big posts in. Hopefully I'll be able to continue when more time opens up.


BlackandGreen said...

How could I forget? Thanks to the crowd for a sellout. Very nice to see. The blackout was pretty cool as well...

Golden Monkey said...

Great to see the bleachers full and black rather than yellow accross the floor from my view. This team is certainly fun to watch. Knowing Brey's style we'll have a six man rotation and spot duty for Peoples and Zeller for the rest of the year. Next year loosing only Kurz it will remain about the same. Why not redshirt more than one freshman? None of them have played more than token minuets this whole season. Or why recruit four to begin with? None of them were big time recruits?

BlackandGreen said...

The problem with redshirting freshmen in basketball is that most guys won't stick around for 5 years. With fewer roster spots in the NBA than professional football, it is less beneficial for a player to stay the extra year.

What you're seeing is the norm for Coach Brey's freshmen. Russell Carter played in only 11 games his freshman year and 8.5 minutes a contest sophomore year. Rob Kurz averaged 4.7 a game freshman year. Ayers and Hillesland both were played these kind of minutes their first years.

With only one player graduating, the freshmen will not move into too big a role next year, but their junior seasons will be huge. Nash and Abromaitis should start seeing solid minutes next season and be starting a year later. With Coach Brey's reliance on a eight-man rotation, it's hard for the younger guys to crack the lineup especially with six guys who are playing well enough to merit a starting nod.

The two big time recruits last year were Ty Nash and Carleton Scott. Nash was hyped to be a contributor this year, but there was just not enough room for him in the rotation. Abromaitis looks to be a solid player as well and could be a starter by the time he graduates. Proffitt won't get a lot of playing time behind Jackson, McAlarney, and Peoples. Scott is the kicker. He has a lot of upside. If he can beef up a bit, there is a ton of talent there.

I wouldn't be too concerned with the freshmen right now. This is how it goes when there is such an emphasis on the veteran players. By the time they are upperclassmen, all four should be contributing well.

Anonymous said...

i have enjoyed your insightful commentary for a long time.

I love Rob Kurz, you're right he is solid. But every game he seems to miss finishing on several 3-foot shots. Any idea why he won't just flush it with a two hand dunk? He gets up on rebounds, so must be able to dunk.

Why won't Rob Kurz dunkl the ball

BlackandGreen said...

That's a good question. I've seen him dunk before so it's not really a question of ability. Confidence, perhaps? As a 6'9" forward with not the best jumping ability to begin with, he's probably a little timid to try to slam it home when covered and risk coming up short.

You'll notice that Harangody has one or two dunks a game, but mainly relies on that jump hook to score around the basket. Kurz lacks the post moves of Harangody and therefore has more trouble scoring inside. When you're a post player under 7 feet tall without great athletic ability, it takes a little more finesse to score inside of 5 feet. You made a great observation by noticing that Kurz lacks the technique required to really become a great post scorer.

Anonymous said...

One note on the frosh. I think Abromaitis is Kurz's natural replacement, but with more talent right off the bat. From what I've seen of his play, he might get more minutes next year than any of the other Freshman. Nash has good rebounding ability and is an active, strong, physical player, but really needs to develop his shot. Scott will be interesting. From the two exhibition games he was in, he showed energy, speed and good offensive potential, but he really needs to beef up, or he'll be clobbered by big east bodies. Proffit is a great 3 point shooter, but I don't see him getting minutes until Kyle leaves.

Anonymous said...

what about the other freshman, Kopko? He has had more experience with hi profile games than any of the other except maybe Nash in AAU. His backup point guard in AAU started against the Irish. Watch him shoot in pre game and he can shoot.

BlackandGreen said...

That's a pretty good question. He's a walkon, so most people (myself included) don't really take him into account.

He could have earned a scholarship at a mid-major school but chose to come to Notre Dame. All reports point to his talent, certainly more than the average walkon. He could be the kind of guy that would earn a scholarship by his senior year.

Right now, he's stuck behind the same logjam at guard as Proffitt, and wouldn't be considered for anything more than the current mopup duty for a while. Depending on future recruits and his development, I would love to see the guy get more action down the road.