The Irish fell to the usual trap of catering to the opponent's style of play for the first half of tonight's game and made Kennesaw State look a whole lot more competitive than they should. However, solid defense throughout and an awakened second half offensive attack eventually won the day.
Tory Jackson had a very solid game at the point, finishing with 5 assists and rebounds. He struggled shooting the ball a little bit, but did not turn it over and had a very nice shot block on defense.
Ben Hansbrough had a very quiet game, as well. He scored 5, his lowest total in an Irish jersey, but helped out with handling the ball. 4 assists, no turnovers. I really like him as a backcourt partner with Tory. He is confident, very smart, and seems to have earned the respect of his teammates. Like Kyle McAlarney, he is a shooting guard who can be called upon the run the offense in spurts.
Time to sit Johnny Peoples. Unlike his fellow guards, Peeeps was absolutely terrible handling the ball. His 5 turnovers included a couple lazy passes that displayed a surprising carelessness. 8 points on a good shooting night, but he has to be done as a starter. He has never been good enough to be more than a role player for the Irish.
Ty Nash also struggled tonight. For whatever reason, he continues to lack a finishing ability close to the basket. Even wideopen layups are missing. With Abro and Scott looking so good in the last couple of games, Peoples is not the only starter who should be worried.
Luke Harangody carried the team with a Player of the Year-caliber performance. However, I would really like to see better scoring distribution in these nonconference games. You can't just lean on Luke every night and expect to be successful. He did finish with a big double-double (29 and 15) and now has over 1000 rebounds in his great career. Congratulations and good luck to him as he draws closer to the career school records in points and boards.
Off the bench, Abromaitis was very solid once again. Tim had his fifth straight game of double-digit scoring. He should start on Friday. Carleton Scott had 7 points and a big career-high 11 rebounds, many of which came on offense to keep scoring chances alive. After struggling in the first couple of contests, he seems to have found his way and would also be a much more valuable starter at the 3 than Peoples. If Nash continues to struggle, we might see more of Abromaitis playing alongside Scott as a Kurz-like power forward. I like Tim more as a small forward, but both guys are earning additional playing time.
One final nit about the game, Luke needs to stop messing around on the perimeter so much. With Nash struggling, we really do not have another scoring threat in the post. Let's focus on getting some points inside and let the three-point shooters do their thing outside the arc.
While this game was a bit more competitive than I hoped, there is something to be said about facing adversity this early. Our more inexperienced players like Scott and Abro are getting valuable playing time in reasonably tough contests while staying in the win column. Notre Dame is now ranked #23 in the AP poll, a pretty cool feat I overlooked earlier, but obviously pretty meaningless until we play a couple legit teams. Northwestern could provide solid competition next.