WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
The Irish used some great ball movement and high-intensity defense to grind away at the Hoyas on the road. This was exactly what you want to see from a team on the ropes: unselfish play with loads of hustle and smart decisions on both ends of the ball. Once again, I liked how this team played without its All-American. Everyone was on their toes today, looking to contribute for forty minutes, instead of letting one guy take most of the responsibility. There were a few stretches that were simply beautiful to watch.
ND stole the ball ten times, equaling its total from the double-overtime loss to Louisville. That also marks only the third time all year that the Irish have finished in double digits in that stat. Tory Jackson led the way with five takeaways, but everyone helped out. Ben Hansbrough's steal at the top of the key with five minutes left was one of most heady defensive moves we've seen all year.
The Irish outrebounded Georgetown by eleven, an incredible stat when playing without our top rebounder and facing one of the best big men in the conference. Carleton Scott had a big coming-out party, hitting the glass hard for nine boards. We haven't had anyone who can rebound from the perimeter like that in a very long time. Glad to have him in the rotation, better late than never.
Georgetown's leading scorer Austin Freeman was out of his element with just five points. We caught a break with him being sick, but the Hoyas certainly had enough fire power to win without him. Playing without our top guy, I have to rate this as the best win of the year.
Tory Jackson had 9 points and 3 assists to go with his fantastic defensive performance. His step-up three when the lead had dwindled to four was clutch. Without that shot, Georgetown could have gotten right back into the game. That bucket ended a five-and-a-half minute scoreless streak and snapped an 8-0 Hoya run. Bigtime play by the senior leader.
Ben Hansbrough carried the team at the beginning of the second half, going on a personal 10-3 run in the first three minutes after the break. 19 of his 21 points came in the second half and in a variety of ways. His three three-pointers were standard fare, but he also took it to the basket with confidence. He was 4-5 on shots inside the arc. He also filled in the stat sheet in a variety of other ways: 4 assists, 3 rebounds, a block, and that nice steal.
Tim Abromaitis really struggled with his long range touch (1-9), but was able to still contribute all over the floor. He managed 19 points, almost entirely inside the arc and from the free throw line. A couple baskets came on broken presses at the end, a nice sign. In recent years, the Irish have caved to late game pressure and have never been able to close out the way we want. Today, Georgetown paid for its decision to keep up the full-court pressure by giving up dunks on the other end. Great job, Irish.
Carleton Scott was the player of the game. 17 points, 9 rebounds. He was 7-8 from the floor, almost perfect. Four of his rebounds came on the offensive end. He blocked three shots with that long wingspan and grabbed a pair of steals as well. We knew that his athleticism could lead to that kind of defensive ability, but the offensive performance was what I was most impressed with again. He drilled three three-pointers with confidence and looks like he is improving as a scorer with every contest.
Ty Nash had 8 points and 6 rebounds. Once again, his free throw percentage was impressive, 4-5. He also finished with 3 assists, as the Irish dished out 16 in an almost perfect distribution among the starters.
Off the bench, Jack Cooley really filled in well in his twelve minutes. Coach Brey used him primarily as a minute and foul eater on defense since Nash has struggled with that so much in conference play. His effort resulted in 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 fouls that didn't get called on #1. I like that usage of Cooley and wish we could have seen it a bit earlier this season. Peoples' career seems to be winding down in a whimper. Just one steal in 5 minutes.
The Irish opened the second half with two great stretches of play. My favorite came right before the 12:30 mark, as our ball movement led the way to a 7-2 run capped off by back-to-back Cooley layups. Carleton Scott's dish from the top of the key for an Abromaitis mid-range jumper should be replayed over and over as the team heads back to South Bend. When Harangody gets back into the lineup, I hope that the guys are able to keep up that kind of movement and unselfish play. We are very hard to stop like that.
UCONN at home Wednesday and at Marquette next Saturday. Win both and a BET game and the Irish are in the Tournament. Who would have thought?
Great job, guys. Please keep this up.