First eight minutes of tonight's game: 17-2 West Virginia. The Irish came out in a zone defense and kept with it for most of this stretch. 4 offensive rebounds led to 6 second chance points for the Mountaineers. Game over before it even really begins.
Of course, scoring just two points in twelve early possessions does not exactly bode well for your squad. The Irish were tentative on both sides of the floor, failed to set screens, and just plain outworked under the basket. Poor coaching and motivation to start the game and an embarrassing lack of effort from the players for most of the first half just killed us. If you can't get up for a game like this, you have no business playing Division I Basketball.
In the second half, we played much better, but it begs the question why we could not have shown the same effort in the first 20 minutes. Coach Brey's technical with 11 minutes remaining was a welcome show of fire that really turned the calls in our direction. However, it would have been more valuable four minutes earlier down 12 instead of in an 18 point hole.
Tenacious man defense really turned the momentum in our favor and we turned a 20 point deficit into just 7 with three minutes remaining. Luke Harangody was his old self, going off for 27 points and carrying the team down the stretch. Our mentality completely changed with the switch to man and we started banging around in the post as well.
Overall, a very disappointing loss. The final score was not terrible, but it stings a little extra to see the quality of basketball we should have shown all game and in every game this year.
I've been supporter of Mike Brey for a very long time, but clearly we have not performed at an acceptable level this year. Jack Swarbrick should make it known that big changes need to be made (a la Charlie Weis after the football season) and improvement is expected. If we're floundering around in the NIT next season, let's take a look elsewhere. However, for as much as some may want a change (I'm starting to lean in that direction, but not there yet) it's not going to happen this year.
To the NIT it is. There's only one acceptable outcome now: win it all. No more losses the rest of the year.
6 points for Toy Jackson before fouling out. He needs to stop thinking of himself as a shooter and taking ill-advised threes on offense. Also needs to grow out of a tendency to dribble to the baseline in an attempt to create offense. More often that not it just turns into a trap.
K-Mac shot well in what might be his last trip to the Garden. 17 points on 4-9 from beyond the arc. Yet again he gave us nothing (1-5) inside. However, 5 assists to just 2 turnovers handling the ball.
Ryan Ayers missed a couple good looks that could have turned the tide but still finished with a good shooting line. 11 points on 3-6 beyond the arc.
Zach Hillesland grabbed 5 rebounds, a surprisingly solid number for how bad he looked at times. No points in 20 minutes, not a whole lot of help on offense or defense.
Harangody carried the team in the second half, but it was too little too late. 27 points, 8 rebounds. In the first half, he didn't establish himself in the post and was lazy on defense. He did pick it up a lot in the second half and his best position on defense might be that one-man zone we were playing as we made a couple second half runs.
Ty Nash was the only guy who really played physical basketball in the first half. He finished with 7 rebounds. There is no reason why Zach Hillesland should start over this guy. For a team that frequently plays soft, he's one player who likes to throw his weight around. Zeller gave nothing in 7 minutes, Peoples was just a touch better in 10 minutes.
West Virginia played really physical basketball with lots of rebounding and hustle on defense. They're better than any team we will see in the NIT, but you can be a couple squads will be just as tough. We need to play like we did in the second half to make an NIT run. A first or second round exit in the nation's tournament for losers would be one final kick in the stomach.