Before the Providence Friars hit South Bend on Wednesday, December 30 for the Big East opener, I figured most of you (unless of course you're one of about 11 season ticket holders to attend every game) could use a refresher course on the Irish basketball season to date.
Notre Dame 86 North Florida 65
- Game Recap: I was covering the ND/Pittsburgh game at Heinz field, so your best bet for a recap is in the category below.
- Stat Stuffers: Five Irish in double figures (Harangody and Hansbrough led with 19 while Abromaitis tallied 13 in the first extended playing time of his career and senior tri-captain Jonathan Peoples added 11); Tory Jackson dished out seven assists; ND shot 14-25 from beyond the arc including a 5-5 performance by senior transfer Ben Hansbrough in his first game for the Irish.
- Unsung Heroes: Any fan who sat through the full 40 minutes.
- What it Meant: Let's put it this way, here's the text I received from my wife (a basketball fan) during the game while I was in Pittsburgh: "Is North Florida Division 1?"
Notre Dame 95 Saint Francis (PA) 72
- Game Recap: Saint Francis played the Irish tough for the first 20 minutes, drilling 7-11 3-point shots and trailing by just seven (45-38) at the break. The Irish clamped down defensively early in the second stanza with a 13-5 run to open up a double-digit advantage and cruised the rest of the way.
- Stat Stuffers: Harangody led all players with 27 points and 9 rebounds; Hansbrough and Abromaitis added 18 and 17 points respectively while combining to shoot 7-12 from beyond the arc; Jackson scored 9 points with 9 assists and 7 rebounds in a game-high 37 minutes. The Irish knocked down 12-23 3-point shots and outrebounded the Red Flash 40-21.
- Unsung Heroes: Tyrone Nash scored a then career-best 11 points in 18 minutes. Hansbrough and Jackson combined for 16 assists vs. just 2 turnovers.
- What it Meant: Abromaitis' second straight strong effort off the bench upped the redshirt-junior's confidence and pushed him closer to his first starting role (one he's unlikely to relinquish this season).
Notre Dame 82 Long Beach State 62
- Game Recap: The 49ers fought the Irish to a near-draw over the first 20 minutes, trailing 37-35 at the half. Hansbrough and Harangody sparked the Irish after the break, keying an early 17-6 run. The Irish defense forced 12 second-half turnovers and held LBS to 11-29 from the field to close the contest.
- Stat Stuffers: Harangody led the way with a game-high 29 points while adding 12 boards; Hansbrough added 11 points and 7 assists with just 1 turnover; Jackson scored a season-high 13 points and both Peoples and Abromaitis reached double figures. Eugene Phelps piled up 18 boards for the visitors who outrebounded the Irish, 33-32.
- Unsung Heroes: Hansbrough keyed the second-half run with relentless penetration and deft passing, setting up Nash, Abromaitis, and Harangody with easy buckets or open look from 3-point land.
- What it Meant: Six of Notre Dame's players accounted for 190 of the game's 200 total minutes played, a disturbing trend in what head coach Mike Brey referred to as "kind of a Big East game." The 49ers are a battle-tested team that have since beaten UCLA and hung tough with both Clemson and powerful Kentucky. Ben Hansbrough suffered a hip and lingering ankle injury that would hurt the Irish one week later in Chicago.
Notre Dame 91 Liberty 72 (Chicago Invitational - Purcell Pavilion)
- Game Recap: Another tough test for 20 minutes as ND led by eight at the break (47-39) thanks to a 6-11 effort by the Flames outside the arc. Runs of 9-1 and 19-2 in the second half provided Notre Dame with plenty of breathing room and a chance for the freshman trio of Mike Broghammer, Jack Cooley, and Joey Brooks to earn 22 aggregate minutes of floor time in the win.
- Stat Stuffers: Harangody led the way with a quiet 32 points and 9 boards (10-14 from the floor and 10-10 from the line) while Abromaitis scored 12 off the bench (on six shots). Nash bested his career-high with 12 points in 17 minutes.
- Unsung Heroes: Carleton Scott played with his best effort through four contests, scoring 4 points while grabbing 6 rebounds with 2 steals and 2 assists in 17 minutes off the bench.
- What it Meant: You know what they say at tournament time: "Survive and advance…"wait, wrong tournament. It meant nothing. The terrible non-conference schedule allowed the Irish to find minutes for six inexperienced players.
Notre Dame 80 Kennesaw State 62 (Chicago Invitational - Purcell Pavilion)
- Game Recap: The Irish struggled from the floor but clamped down on the overmatched Owls (yes, I had to look that up), limiting KSU to 24 first-half points and a 35 percent shooting night. Harangody became the school's fifth player to reach 1,000 rebounds, which was easily the high point of the contest.
- Stat Stuffers: Harangody with another 29 points and 15 boards; Abromaitis hit double figures off the bench for the fifth consecutive game, adding 14 points in 19 minutes. Tory Jackson added 8 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and didn't commit a turnover.
- Unsung Heroes: Carleton Scott posted 7 points and a career high 11 rebounds in 22 minutes. More importantly, he provided a defensive presence, both as a weak side help defender and in the passing lanes.
- What it Meant: I used to live in Atlanta and work across the road from Kennesaw State, but other than that, not much…
Northwestern 72 Notre Dame 58 (Chicago Invitational - UIC Pavilion)
- Game Recap: The Irish shot just 7 for 31 from beyond the arc and struggled settled for ineffective cross-court lob passes vs. the Wildcats 1-3-1 zone en route to the disappointing 14-point defeat. Harangody struggled to convert, both inside and out, hitting just 7 of 19 shots from the field while a still-hobbled Hansbrough hit just 1-10 shots and none of his seven from long range.
- Stat Stuffers: Harangody scored 21 ineffectual points and Abromaitis added 13 though he missed six of nine three-point attempts, including at least three that could have kept the Irish close with under three minutes to play. Tory Jackson scored 11 points and handed out 4 assists without a turnover but was victimized by Wildcats point guard Michael Thompson, who went off in the second half, scoring 17 of his 20 points while John Shurna scored a game-high 25 points with 8 rebounds.
- Unsung Heroes: Carleton Scott finished with 7 points and 8 rebounds in a season-high 26 minutes though he did suffer a key defensive lapse late, allowing a back-breaking deep 3-point bucket by spot-up shooter Alex Marcotullio.
- What it Meant: Northwestern is 10-1 heading into conference play so this might not rank as a bad loss when the NCAA Selection Committee convenes in mid-March. But it didn't help.
Notre Dame 64 Saint Louis 52 (Chicago Invitational - UIC Pavilion)
- Game Recap: My responsibility was to cover the ND/Stanford football game and this contest was not televised (so no replay was available), but the Irish led by just three at the half (27-24) but used an 11-2 run midway through the second stanza to keep the Billikens and head coach Rick Majerus at bay.
- Stat Stuffers: Harangody led the Irish with 18 points while adding 9 rebounds; Tyrone Nash notched a career-high 10 boards with 6 points in 26 minutes; Hansbrough bounced back with 14 points adding 5 assists and Abromaitis added 12 points off the bench. Only seven Irish players saw action. Saint Louis' Willie Reid led all players with 20 points and 15 boards.
- Unsung Heroes: As stated, I was covering ND football but head coach Rick Majerus singled out Hansbrough's penetration and effective post play vs. the Saint Louis guards.
- What it Meant: A third-place finish in the Chicago Classic is a disappointment, but with one loss, the Irish were still on track for a strong non-conference finish.