Like Eastern Michigan last year and Lehigh the year prior, the Irish struggled at home against a hot-shooting cupcake. Still, we fared better than Tennessee today and got the win.
Have to love the heart on this team. In the second half, heads were never down amidst the onslaught of Terrier threes. Instead, the team was fired up and fought valiantly to the final buzzer. Anything short of the 110% they gave today would have resulted in a loss. Thanks for the effort, guys.
Still, you have to take a step back to look at what went wrong in the first period (and for much of the second half). Before everyone takes a swing at the team for underperforming against a low-major squad, we need to give credit where credit is due. BU came out firing from the start and played a strategy that we will not see much in the Big East. Fire away from downtown, hit a decent amount of those shots, and hope to trade twos for threes until the end. It nearly won the game today and might win them a game or two in March. This is a lineup that could get hot and win a couple shockers against 3 or 4 seeds.
If Kyle McAlarney had the moves of Corey Lowe, he would be unstoppable. Lowe created his own looks with a nice little step back dribble that worked to perfection throughout the game. Credit K-Mac and the other defenders on Lowe, that was just a tough move to stop. If he shot his average 42% from long range (rather than 4-14), Boston wins.
In the first half, the Irish had a lot of trouble rebounding. Boston outrebounded ND 17-11 on the offensive glass, but as Lucid mentioned in the comments, that was partly due to a lot of long boards going over the heads of our big men. Overall, the Terriers won the rebounding battle 44-37. Not good when playing a team with not a lot of team height.
On offense, we played decently well. 44% from the floor, just a touch under the season average. Only seven turnovers, a good sign. Our three-point percentage was right where it normally stands and we finished with a good number of assists. All around, a pretty solid offensive game.
The defense was a bit dodgy, in addition to Boston's supremacy on the offensive glass. Still, we held BU to 37% shooting, one of our better performances, and picked up a solid amount of steals and blocks. If they were not so heavily reliant on three-point shooting (attempted 12 more than our average opponent so far), we could have won by more. 37% goes a long way when you get three points for every make.
The foul shooting was also nicely improved (aside from Hillesland). McAlarney and Harangody were solid as usual and Tory looked surprisingly confident knocking down a pair. I just do not know how to fix Zach's problem. A good balance of scoring, but no real second rebounder. Tory had a rough shooting night, but everyone else was respectable.
Jackson also dished out five assists to two turnovers. He scored six on two of nine shooting. Two for two from the foul line. 3 rebounds, plus a couple battles under the offensive glass that did not turn out our way but were still nice to see.
McAlarney was 4-9 from three point range. The Terrier defense did a nice job keeping him in check and Kyle responded well with 16 points in the flow of the game. His confident stroke on a few open looks in the second half kept the Boston lead from gaining too much momentum.
Ayers provided 10 points and five rebounds. Also had two steals and a block. That stat line is perfect from him, we just need it consistently with the possibility of more with a cold night from the scorers.
Aside from Hillesland's foul shooting troubles, he played pretty well. 11 points, 4 rebounds. The most encouraging stats are his three steals and three assists. Those steals literally came with number 33 ripping the ball out of the hands of Terrier ball-handlers. Good work, Zach.
Harangody had 23 and 15, a nice day at the office. He really took over the rebounding duties in the second half and fought tooth and nail. The first line in the AP write-up says it all. He is getting a little better in passing out of the double-team, but a few times it was just more effective to go through it and finish strong in the post. As long as he makes it work, no complaints here.
With such a tight game, Nash and Scott saw very little playing time (Nash two minutes, Scott none at all). Unfortunately, that is how it might be in tough conference contests. The guys off the bench who did play a bit, Zeller and Peoples, contributed a little but nothing special.
Altogether, the only real black mark in this game was our poor rebounding. Still, much of that came in the first half (we actually won the rebounding battle by six in the second), so some adjustments were made. Boston is a good team that should win their conference. If they can get hot at the right time, look out. There's is the exact formula for Cinderella success in March: hustle, hard work, and a ton of three point shooting.
Though this was a bit of a wakeup call, it was a good chance for the team to play in front of an excited home crowd. Instead of getting negative, the bench erupted after every big shot, even while trailing. Ben Hansbrough led some cheering and walked off the court with his shirt half untucked from all the excitement. Good to see the new guy get into it.
Have to like the makeup of this team. Not their best performance, but they showed grit and will bounce back nicely. Time for finals now. They can get back to business in a week.