Player of the Game – Luke Harangody: Posted 31 points and 9 boards with a nice mix of mid-range jump shots and baseline moves to keep the Irish in the contest through 37 minutes of action. Harangody hit key shots to end the first and begin the second half - an occurrence that provided the key hidden points/possessions that often help decide Irish contests in the Big East.
Only two criticisms are necessary: an early-game love affair with 18 to 20-footers doesn't allow Harangody to help draw fouls and bring the Irish into a bonus situation, and 2.) Consistently poor low-post position not only allowed center Gavin Edwards to cover Harangody one-on-one most of the afternoon, but also exacerbated the emphasis on the perimeter game for Notre Dame's best low-block scorer of the last 25 years.
Good Hands Award – Tory Jackson: Eight assists and two turnovers vs. constant pressure and harassment from hiccup-quick defensive guard Kemba Walker. Walker hounded Jackson's every dribble but the Irish senior responded with 40 solid minutes of ball control and sufficient penetration. The Irish will need more from Jackson (2-7 from the field) in the scoring column to beat top teams. As well, after drilling a clutch 3-pointer one minute earlier, Jackson (badly) missed the front end of a one-and-one with the Irish trailing 68-62 at the 3:43 mark and the visitors never again challenged as the Huskies put the game on ice.
Sign Me Up – Tyrone Nash: 21 minutes with 11 points, 8 boards, 2 assists (just one turnover) and 2 steals…the Irish will win plenty of games if Nash can maintain that level of production over the next 16 contests. Nash provided second-chance points early (6 offensive boards) and confident post play with solid position for the first 30 minutes. An authoritative weak side rejection of a Nash layup attempt by Huskies' leaper Stanley Robinson early in the second-half seemed to fluster the Irish power forward who missed or hesitated underneath on subsequent possessions.
The next step in Nash's development is less tunnel-vision in the post…an eye toward open teammates and cutters would augment his developing low-post presence.
Matchup Nightmare – Tim Abromaitis: The redshirt-junior forward had a rough go in his first Nutmeg State appearance since his prep days. Due partially to nerves, but mostly to the consistent defensive presence of the uber-athletic Robinson, Abromaitis was held scoreless in the opening half en route to 8 points (2-6 from beyond the arc) and 4 boards in 32 minutes. To his credit, Abro drained two bombs to draw the Irish within 3 (53-50) and 7 (66-59) to offset Huskies runs.
An alignment of issues served as a portent to the junior's rough homecoming: it was his first road game as an Irish regular; that first road game took place in front of myriad friends and family; his assigned defender was familiar with his game from open gym play over the summer and dedicated himself to stopping the Irish sharp-shooter; said assigned defender ranks as one of college basketball's best athletes. No need to fret Irish fans…Abromaitis will produce throughout the course of the 2010 conference season, he was just overmatched Saturday in Hartford.
Matchup Nightmare: Redux – Ben Hansbrough: Hansbrough's 14-point (4-11), 2 assist, no turnover effort would have been enough for a road win vs. the Rutgers and St. John's of the world, but not against the Huskies and star shooting guard Jerome Dyson. Dyson predictably burned the Irish with constant attacks of the rack, racing by and through Hansbrough and Notre Dame's non-existent backline help defense (20 points, 10 assists, 0 turnovers).
Hansbrough knocked down 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc, but the senior guard is at his best as a creator and facilitator of the offense…a player that penetrates the opponent's lane and finds an open teammate, draws fouls, and occasionally finishes at the hole. Rarely did Dyson allow such forays on Saturday. As with Abromaitis, better days and matchups lie ahead for the transfer from Mississippi State.
No Rhythm and the Blues: After a 23-point effort in Wednesday's conference opener vs. Providence, senior guard Jonathan Peoples failed to make an impact Saturday vs. the Huskies (0 points and 3 turnovers with just 1 assist in 12 scattered minutes).
And after a mid-December emergence, redshirt-junior forward Carleton Scott again failed to make a dent on the scoreboard, missing each of his three mid-range shots in 15 minutes while adding two assists and a blocked shot. Notre Dame's bench did not score (0-5) and produced a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 27 combined minutes. NIT numbers for a team that needs further development from its puzzling 7-man rotation.
Traveling with the Team – Mike Broghammer, Jack Cooley, Joey Brooks: Brooks entered briefly for late desperation pressure defense, and committed a hard foul in mid-air going after a deep pass thrown to Dyson…at least it was a hard foul, as Dyson surely would have returned the favor had the tables been turned. He also assisted after an offensive board on the game's final play.
Broghammer, Cooley, and Brooks should be used throughout the next 16 games (Broghammer and Cooley have Big East bodies and are capable of rebounds and hard fouls vs. anyone in the conference and Brooks offers an option when Peoples and/or Scott goes MIA)…but a more likely scenario suggests head coach Mike Brey is prepared to go down with his 7-man ship.
Review of the PreviewOur pre-conference preview of Saturday's matchup placed the game among four "Flying High" contests on the Big East schedule (games that would be absolute steals if ND were to prevail), adding:
- Truth: The Irish have lost six consecutive vs. the Huskies in Connecticut (Mike Brey is 0-6 at UConn as the Notre Dame head coach) though the visitors have hung tough in each of the last three losses. Brey is 3-12 vs. UConn in his nine seasons at the helm.
The game played out as predicted, though I thought the Irish could stay closer with a better performance from beyond the arc.
On TapNotre Dame completes its two-game road trip in Tampa as guests of South Florida in the Bulls' Big East home opener. The contest ranks as a must-win with three ranked opponents and three road games awaiting the squad to close January.
A preview of the South Florida contest will appear Tuesday morning.