Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Notre Dame 77, Kentucky 67

Good win, now it's off to Madison Square Garden. Kentucky showed up with a bunch of blue-clad supporters and helped fill the JACC, but it never got close enough to make the Wildcat faithful really get into the game. Off to the NIT Final Four it is, then.

We knew Meeks and Patterson were the ones who could beat us and they never took control. Meeks scored only 3 in the first half but you knew it was only a matter of time before he took off. Kudos to Ryan Ayers and the host of other defenders who kept Meeks in the bag for so long. The preview I wrote last night came true as only Perry Stevenson (8 and 6) remotely kept up with the two best players in blue on offense. Nobody else was really a factor.

We did make a couple big mistakes on D that gave up easy buckets. The worst was a baseline drive in transition that beat three Irish defenders. My fourth grade CYO coach taught me to defend the baseline better than that. However, our rebounding in the second half took away all the second chances that the Wildcats received in the first 20 minutes. Good work by Nash and Harangody evening things up on the boards.

Last night's preview also talked about how we would have to hit from outside. If Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney ever needed to both have good games at once, it was tonight. They combined for 29 points. Clutch shooting by Tory Jackson, Jonathan Peoples, and Luke Harangody (2-4!) also took advantage of the open three point opportunities.

Tory beat Michael Porter on a couple key drives tonight late in the shot clock. These were much needed to keep the Irish offense from getting too inefficient in the second half 1as Meeks held a shooting clinic on the other end. 10 points, 5 assists, 0 turnovers. That's a great night overall.

K-Mac was 3-10 from the floor, but made all six shots from the line. The Irish made eight straight as a team in the final 90 seconds to ice this game. Remember when foul shooting looked to be a weakness? 15 points, 2 assists for Kyle.

Ryan Ayers scored one less, but was better from beyond the arc. 4-7 on three point shooting, 14 points. He added a block and two assists. Meeks turned it on in the second half, but Ayers did a solid job to keep Jodie under his season average. Tory was too small to cover Meeks and Hillesland a liability on offense so Ryan drew the short straw on defense tonight. He worked his butt off and Meeks didn't take over the game until it was too late. Kudos, Ryan.

Zach Hillesland played a couple possessions on the other side of Meeks. Other than that, he was pretty much useless. No points, 2 rebounds in 24 minutes. Thanks a bunch, Zach.

Luke Harangody was great. 30 points, 11 rebounds, stepping his game up in the second half. 4 assists, 8-11 from the line. 2-4 from beyond the arc, taking advantage of that awful Kentucky perimeter defense. He carried us.

Ty Nash needs to be the starting power forward. 2 points, 7 rebounds (4 on offense) to go with a pair of assists in 18 minutes. He gave the Irish second chances and has a knack for getting inside position in the paint. With Harangody looking to score from outside, we need a guy like that on the floor. Luke Zeller played ok defense in 9 minutes, drawing three fouls. Better him than our other bigs. Johnny Peeps hit a pair of open three pointers.

NYC once again, this time against Penn State. I really think they have been overrated this season and like our chances of getting to the finals. The team seems to be fired up and now stands two wins away from the first postseason tournament championship in Notre Dame history. Go and get it, boys.


BlackandGreen said...

7636 in attendance, many from the Commonwealth. It was still a good atmosphere. Nice to see the last game in the original JACC be well-attended.

BlackandGreen said...

If San Diego State finishes off St. Mary's, the Irish face the worst team left next, by far.

Pomeroy Rankings-

San Diego State- 28
Notre Dame- 36
Baylor- 37
(St. Mary's)- 56
Penn State- 67

Bryan said...

They sure saved their best for a 'big' game...

This whole thing makes me want to vomit. Fire Brey!

BlackandGreen said...

No one wanted to be in this position, but they've shown some toughness with three wins over top 50 teams. It wasn't near our best game (toss-up between Louisville and Texas when we were both top 10), but this team is working hard to make somewhat stomachable lemonade out of a whole barrel of lemons. They deserve our support.

Anonymous said...

Bryan - this was far from their best... to be honest they played UNC better and got a drubbing.

This season has been a disappointment for everyone, but I think winning the NIT is about where they belong for the glaring flaws in this team [and this year's coaching].

I'm not happy with what Brey did this year both in terms of coaching and in that he didn't seriously go after a 2008 big man prospect to replace Kurz. But there is no case to fire him. It would make UND look foolish and seriously hurt the future possibility of finding a better coach to replace Brey. He resurrected a dead program, has made an ND first with 9 straight post-season tourneys and has never had a losing season.

We've got 6 potentially great new faces coming in next year. Swarbrick needs to do a Charlie Weiss style sit down with him when the season is done and tell him to shake up the coaching staff and get better results or it's done, but firing him now would set the program back to the mid '90's.

BlackandGreen said...

I'm all for looking to move forward if the team does not see some noticeable improvement (especially on the defensive end) next season. Another NIT bid might be enough to move Swarbrick in that direction.

If, however, Coach Brey brings in one or two hard-nosed assistants who improve the effort on defense and the team gets back to near the top of the Big East and makes a good run in the Tournament, I think we'll see him get a crack at improving the program with those new facilities he has always wanted.

The nice thing about having Brey at the helm is that you know things won't get any worse than this. He may not be the guy to make this program elite (he certainly failed this season), but things will never regress back to the 1990s-level.

Unless he takes a stab at the Virginia job (as Andy Katz hypothesized, which could potentially be a nice way to for both sides to part), Coach Brey will be back with high expectations and on a bit of a hot seat. We may very well get a preview of things to come in this upcoming football season.

Bryan said...

There are 2 types of teams that can enjoy NIT victories: mid major programs and up and coming teams (like in 2000 when ND went to the NIT final). Nd is a senior laden team.

Am I happy for the players and everyone getting a few days in NY? Sure why not....But this whole run is proving the program has peaked.

Think of it this way: If ND wins next week and they raise an NIT championship banner in the New Joyce Center, what will you remember about this season when looking at that banner? For me, it'll be the fact that they were a Top 10 team to start the year and completely choked. I personally want ZERO reminders of this diaster of a year and would have perferred they lost last week

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, Bryan, the banners aren't for you. They're for these hard-working young men who, though may have underachieved, are showing character by giving their all. The least fans can do is support them and not whine about the NCAA's.
Go Irish!

Bryan said...

So the alumni and the fans don't count? It really is all lip service?

Blah blah, yeah they are playing with pride. It would have been if that 'pride' had been there when they were getting platered by Villanova in a must win home game and getting outrebounded 6 Million to 2 at MSG vs WVU in another must win.

If the football team had a similiar season (Top 10 team, lose lots of game, then go on to win a meaningless bowl game), they would be getting BBQ'd. But here it's "Gonna support them b/c they played hard after they were eliminated from the real prize"

Anonymous said...

hey bryan, here is an idea, if you are so miseerable, and think its meaningless, and dont want to be reminded, then just dont watch. The tv doesnt turn itself on my man.

Anonymous said...

this triple domer and fan hopes the boys take the NIT. Were there painful losses? sure, but that banner would represent finishing the season with a string of wins. I can't believe that in Bryan's pathetic moaning he stated that he'd preferred to have seen the Irish lose. boo hoo.

Anonymous said...

I think I remember a few losers saying how the Irish shouldn't even have gone to the Hawaii bowl--good thing they played out the hand dealt them and showed some pride. It's a boost to the coming season.
Go to NY and get another couple of wins, Irish.

BlackandGreen said...

Good comparison to the Hawaii Bowl. It's not where we hoped to end the season, but instead of rejecting the competition both teams have made the most of the experience.

Compare the hopes of ND football fans after the USC game with today. Hopefully the basketball team can finish the job and, with a couple coaching changes, enter next season in a better position than we found ourselves on Selection Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see ND get to the NIT Final Four. Yeah, the season didn't go as expected, but the team deserves its "true fans'" support.
As a diehard Irish faithful living amongst Penn State's obnoxious fans, I hope ND beats the daylights out of the freakin' Lions.
GO IRISH!!! Good Luck!