Irish cap off the season on a four game winning streak with an incredible come-from-behind performance. Down seven with a minute to go, a pair of Ty Nash free throws and two clutch threes sent the game to OT, where the Irish outlasted the Golden Eagles.
That just might have been enough to send this team to the Tournament. A BET win should seal the deal. Huge congrats to Coach Brey and the whole team.
Tim Abromaitis pulled the game within three with just under a minute remaining, but was unable to deliver the tying basket at the end regulation. However, some great hustle by Ben Hansbrough kept the possession alive and set up Carleton Scott to notch things up at the buzzer. Can you imagine a better finish than this one? For a program with notorious history in close games (2006 still burns in my memory) and a reputation for keeping a tight rotation, the Irish miraculously pulled themselves out of the grave with a clutch basket by the poster child of limited playing time.
This finish was our season in a nutshell. With Luke Harangody on the bench, the rest of the team was able to rally with their backs against the wall to defeat another very talented opponent in a defensive battle. This game, along with the three previous contests, was the polar opposite of what we have been used to watching in the Joyce Center for the past several seasons. Good defense, loads of hustle, and a lineup composed of a bunch of unselfish overachievers. I love it.
Tory Jackson wrapped up his regular season career with 9 points and just a single assist. After an incredible performance against Connecticut, the point guard was a bit of an afterthought in a weak Irish offensive performance. On defense, however, he helped to hold Maurice Acker and David Cubillan to just five points apiece.
Ben Hansbrough was 0-5 from beyond the arc. That was pretty standard for the game, as neither team shot over 17.4% on their three-point attempts. He also tacked on 4 fouls and 4 turnovers in a bit of a struggle.
Though the backcourt failed to impress, Abro, Scott, and Nash cleared up on the glass and provided some necessary offensive oomph. Abro struggled with his shot for the third straight game, but was able to contribute 7 points from the charity stripe and 18 total (with just one three-pointer). He is so much more of a complete player than we had in Ryan Ayers last year. A fantastic shooter, to be sure, but he has enough athleticism get rebounds from the perimeter and take the ball inside to draw fouls or create offensive opportunities for the rest of the team.
Just as I love watching Abromaitis develop, his classmate Carleton Scott seems to be growing in front of our eyes. 14 points, 13 rebounds. His offensive output is expanding with each game and that freakish leaping ability has made him the best rebounder on the team right now. It's a shame that he couldn't have gotten more playing time at the beginning of the year, but no one can complain with his performances now.
Ty Nash also scored in the double-digits and grabbed 9 rebounds. Five of those resulted in second chances for the Irish. Most importantly, Nash sank 7 of 10 free throws, including a clutch pair to help the Irish tie the game at the end of regulation. If he can continue to improve his reliability from the line, he will be pretty dangerous as a scorer with how often he draws contact in the lane.
Luke Harangody will come off the bench the rest of the year. That's a sad way for such a great player to end his career, but I wouldn't want to mess with the system we have going right now. In just eleven minutes, he had 5 points and a pair of rebounds. We will see what kind of role he plays the remainder of the season, but I have to think that bringing an All-American off the bench in limited stretches will provide a nice boost in the postseason.
The Irish have claimed the seven seed for the Big East Tournament. They will play either Seton Hall or Providence on Wednesday at 7. Bracketography, one of the better independent projection sites, lists the Irish as solidly in the NCAAs as a nine seed. I'll break down more of that this week as other sites update their projections.
Four straight wins through our hell stretch to end the year. Remember this? Seems like an awful long time ago.