Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Livin' on the Edge

The Irish squeaked out a barnburner at South Florida tonight, 74-73. The boys had a chance to step on the Bulls’ necks midway through the second half but let USF off the mat and had to sweat out a close one. It was a pretty ugly victory but I’ll take an ugly W over a pretty loss any day…especially over a conference opponent at home. As I was regaled with another enthusiastic commentating job by the one and only Dan Wenzel I jotted down some thoughts. And awaaaaaaay we go!

* Luke Harangody went through some stretches where he was ice cold and some where he was absolutely on fire. His finally tally (36 points, 13-for-23 shooting, 4-of-5 3pt) is impressive and there’s no chance in hell we win this game without his heroics…that being said, his first free throw attempt came at the 3:36 mark of the first half. He needs to go back and watch some tapes of Tyler Hansbrough—Psycho T made a living of getting to the free throw line. Harangody is such a deadly free throw shooter—he has such a repeatable motion with so few moving parts, it’s a thing of beauty—that it’s a waste when he doesn’t force the issue and draw fouls inside.

* Thanks to his early season performances Tim Abromaitis is now a marked man. The Irish really need to find a way to get him involved in the offense more. He wasn’t at all in the flow of the game in the first half and you could tell he began to press. He’s a really smart player who’s just starting to get his feet wet in big time college basketball. Learning how to get his shots will be part of the maturation process.

* There was a point at the beginning of the second half where Stan Heath attempted to go small. I absolutely loved how we just pounded it inside immediately. Abro had a nice little “and-1” on the first possession after the substitution and the Irish followed that with three offensive boards and a Harangody put-back the next one. That USF lineup lasted less than two minutes before Heath had to pull the plug and call timeout. Great, smart basketball there by ND.

* Carleton Scott is a freak athlete who needs to be on the floor more and more as the season wears on. Brey gave him a bigger dose of playing time tonight (it was still small at 8 minutes) and he responded with two blocks and five rebounds. He’s so athletic and has such a wide wing span that despite his slight frame he can anchor the 2-3 and be the shot blocking presence we’ve sorely been lacking. One small thing that probably went unnoticed by a lot of people was how he was calling for the ball the possession after he hit his three from the corner. I LOVED that, we need him to embrace that attitude. He’s definitely still raw, but he’s got such a high ceiling that it’s worth taking the lumps that will undoubtedly come with growing pains. Unleash the kid Mike, no excuse to be cautious with such a paper thin bench this year.

* When Harangody gets on a roll like he did today it’s only natural that the opponent will eventually double and even triple team him as soon as he makes a move toward the basket. Coach Brey needs to work on getting Luke to not just put his head down and barrel full-steam into the traffic—it’s almost like an old NBA Live video game where when you’d hit a button to start a move it’d go through on autopilot to the shot. I harped on this last year and it’s the same story this year: he has to find the open shooter in those situations and not just plow into traffic when he doesn’t have any sort of position or alley. USF had three guys swarm him at one point, he has to heighten his court awareness and make the defense pay.

* Tory Jackson and Tyrone Nash deserve all the credit in the world for stepping up and knocking down clutch free throws late in the game. These are guys who are normally atrocious from the charity stripe (both below 60%) that stood up when their team needed them and delivered. Worthy of a Bob Davie Silent H (H)UUUUUUUUGE.

* During the 12-0 South Florida run in the second half our offense was totally out of synch. Those situations are when having no offensive sets to fall back on kills us. It’s inevitable that a time will come in the game where the free-flowing offense we employ will stall. When it does our answer seems to be have someone try to stop the bleeding by taking their man off the dribble. That’s really not our strength. I don’t know exactly what the answer is—perhaps a simple flex set or something of that nature—but I feel like if in Year 10 Brey hasn’t felt the need to come up with one he won’t suddenly chose to try to find an solution now. If his answer was that four corners-esque look at the three minute mark when we were up two (it led to zero points and no look from Harangody inside) then he needs to keep searching.

Quick Hits

I love the effort Tyrone Nash has been giving—frankly, he’s the only one who goes after the boards hard on every play—but on the offensive end he needs to learn how to finish better around the hoop or he’s doomed to be the rich man’s Rick Cornett…Is it me or without fail do we always let the opponent crawl back into the game when it seems they’re dead? The notable exception was that demolition of Louisville last year…My beloved color commentator Dan Wenzel—a subdued Mr. Wenzel by the way, due in large part to the fact that he spent all his energy doing his best Howard Dean “BYAAAH” impression last night at the College of Charleston game—gave an insanely stupid analysis during a timeout of what Mike Brey was writing on (a white board), what he was writing with (a marker), and what he was drawing up (an inbound play). I half expected Will Ferrell to come out dressed as Dan Fouts and explain how the team that scored more points was most likely going to win the game…ND half-asses screens so much it disgusts me…I’ve never seen a coach sit in a little chair on the court during a timeout to talk to his team like Brey did at the end of the game. I can’t imagine trying to fire the team up from a portable stool…Final play by Harangody was a legit foul but he was bailed out when USF hit him because there was a wild shot that was about to be launched. I will take him at the foul line with a chance to win any day of the week though…How pissed off were the gamblers that laid wood on the Irish (giving 1.5pts) when he clanked that second free throw?

A win is a win is a win is a win. We’ll take it and move on.


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