"We know that they are a great shooting team, and they have proven that all year," said Abromaitis. "So coming into the game tonight we really wanted to get out on them, really hug them around the perimeter and not allow them to have any easy looks that jumpstart their offense. It was a total team effort tonight defensively." (quote courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)
Notre Dame was able to combat 14 Georgetown bench points in the first half with a 9-2 edge in second chance points, and with the Hoyas unable to keep them off the boards the Irish were able to capitalize on extra opportunities much of the night. After an Austin Freeman layup started off the second half the home team went on a 14-2 run that featured three three-pointers as a team and seven points from Scott Martin. Martin, playing in his first Big East game after missing the last two seasons due to transfer rules (Purdue) followed by a torn ACL (he would have been eligible to play last year if not for the knee), was commended by Coach Brey for his defense on Freeman especially in the first half. He adds a dimension the frontcourt that Notre Dame lacked outside of Abromaitis, a big man who can play inside as well as step out and make some perimeter shots and this will be a welcome boost for the Irish.
The seed for this Notre Dame squad may have been planted when Luke Harangody went down with a knee injury during Big East play last season. More players had to pick up the slack in his absence and when he returned the Irish were able to continue building and get to the NCAA Tournament. Now they're ranked in the Top 15 and have a number of quality pieces who can finish better than seventh in the Big East. This weekend's game at Syracuse will be another good indicator as to how good Coach Brey's team can be, but if last night means anything it's that Notre Dame could be for real.
Other Notable Happenings
1. UCLA's second half performance proves too much for Washington State.
Down by eight at the half, things weren't looking too good for Ben Howland's team against a Washington State squad many thought could take a step towards being a contender in the Pac-10. But then the Bruins woke up offensively, taking control of the game with a 20-6 run and going on to beat the Cougars 80-71 at Pauley Pavilion. Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee scored 21 points apiece while Tyler Honeycutt added a very good all around performance in returning after missing a game with a sprained shoulder. Klay Thompson scored 26 points to lead the way for Washington State but made just six of seventeen from the field, and besides Faisal Aden there really wasn't much help to be had. Defensively UCLA did a good job of forcing the Cougars to go 1-on-1 for their offense and Wazzu struggled as a result. UCLA's scoring pieces are playing better this season than last and the addition of PG Lazeric Jones (10 points, 11 assists) has been a critical addition to the rotation. Can UCLA contend for a Pac-10 title? We'll find out a lot more tomorrow afternoon as they host Washington, but the returns following Wednesday night are definitely encouraging.
2. Vanderbilt picks up an important non-conference win.
Once again Marquette fell into the "close but no cigar" category in a close game, falling 77-76 at Vanderbilt as Darius Johnson-Odom stumble (some would argue that he was tripped and a foul should have been called) prevented the Golden Eagles from getting off a final shot. The Commodores got their game-winning basket with 4.1 seconds to go as instead of hurrying to fire up a challenged shot, Brad Tinsley found Andre Walker underneath to give Vandy a solid non-conference victory. Jeffrey Taylor led the Commodores with 19, and five total players scoring in double figures made up for an ice-cold night from John Jenkins (4-21 FG, 2-15 3PT for 13 points). Jimmy Butler led five Marquette players in double figures with 15 points, but now Buzz Williams' team is in the unenviable position of needing their big wins to come via Big East play in order to sew up an NCAA bid when the time comes. But there were encouraging signs for Marquette, especially the play of Vander Blue and Jae Crowder along with the fact that they were able to hold their own inside despite a comparative lack of size. Marquette will be involved in a number of street fights and will end up winning their fair share and the same goes for Vanderbilt.
3. Missouri State's first conference road win in nearly a year is a big one.
This may have been the most exciting game of the night in regards to big shots from Johnny Moran's half court shot to end the first half to his three to give the defending Missouri Valley champs a 57-55 lead with 12 seconds to go. But that was topped by Kyle Weems, who canned a three pointer with 1.9 seconds to go to give the Bears their first conference road victory in 360 days. Jermaine Mallett (14 points) and Adam Leonard (11) also came up big for Cuonzo Martin's team, who should definitely be considered a factor in the MVC race in addition to the Panthers and preseason favorite Wichita State. Kwadzo Ahelegbe led all scorers with 25 points but UNI made just four of fourteen from three and received just three points from their bench, areas that will need to improve if Ben Jacobson's team is to repeat as MVC champion.
Mike Krzyzewski passes Dean Smith with his 880th career victory
Top Three Games
1. Missouri State 58, Northern Iowa 57
2. Vanderbilt 77, Marquette 76
3. Washington 73, USC 67 (OT) No TV for this contest and many missed a good game at the Galen Center. Nicola Vucevic went for 28 and 14 for the home team, but that wasn't enough to knock off the preseason favorite in the Pac-10. Terrence Ross and Venoy Overton outscored the USC reserves 29-7 in the victory while Matthew Bryan-Amaning led the Husky starters with 18.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Jerrell Williams (La Salle) 32 points and 13 rebounds in the Explorers' 93-90 overtime loss to Towson.
2. F Nicola Vucevic (USC) 28 points and 14 rebounds in the Trojans' loss to Washington in the Pac-10 opener for both.
3. G Mickey McConnell (Saint Mary's) 28 points and 13 assists in the Gaels' 94-72 pasting of Mississippi State.