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.