First congrats to this group for an outstanding team effort. Often, in the heat of a game we see, but we do not "really" see what is happening. Only after analyzing the results afterward do we get a true picture of what has transpired. I did that this morning and discovered that the game had 5 major runs where the score was impacted the most. Let's look at each and see what happened.
1st run - 1st half from 5:51-1:25 - ND goes on a 13-3 run to take their largest lead at 16 points.
ND was up 6 prior to this run. During it they shot well 3-5 and we didn't 1-8. But the real issue was we were called for 4 fouls to their 1 giving them 7 free throws of which they made 6. We made 1. So half their points came on the line. Both teams had 5 rebounds but we should have had more since we missed 7 of 8 shots.
2nd run - 2nd half from- 18:32-14:04 - UL goes on 14-5 run, cuts ND lead to 4.
Great segment for us. Both teams shot well (ND 2-4 and UL 3-5) but we made 2 three's to their none. But the biggest thing was we outrebounded them 6-2 and kept them off the free throw line. They only made 1 of 2 free throws and we made 2-2. Note here Siva made BOTH free throws and I now officially pronounce that as the magic bullet. If he makes em both - we win. Period! Also our passing in this segment was exceptional getting all three field goals on assisted passes. Superb.When we play like this (free throws, rebounds and assists) we can beat anybody!
3rd run - 2nd half - from 13:34-12:14 - ND comes back a little with a 7-1 spurt and goes up by 10.
Again one of our weaknesses this season. They only make 1 field goal (1-1) but we get 4 fouls. They make all 4 free throws to our 1 (1-2). We did outrebound them slightly 3-2 but they got no offensive rebounds because they didn't miss a shot from the field in this segment. We shot very poorly (0-4) and two of those were lay ups.
4th run - 2nd half from 9:29-4:20 - UL goes on 11-3 run and cuts ND lead to 2.
Outstanding segment for us in nearly every phase of the game. We out shot them hugely (4-6 vs 1-5). We committed no fouls so they got no points there and we outrebounded them 5-2. They missed 4 shots and we got every rebound. No second chance opportunities for them at all.When we rebound and keep teams off the line, we win. Plain and simple. We did had 2 turnovers but so did they and 2 of our 4 field goals were assisted. This is what fuels a comeback and that's exactly what happened!
5th run - overtime from 4:09-0:04 - UL finishes with 9-2 run to win by 6.
Both teams shot poorly (ND 1-5 and UL 1-4) and no one made a three point shot in this segment. Again, the key was we committed no fouls so they did not get to the line at all and we made 7 of 8 free throws. Also, we didn't allow them a single second chance in this segment either (no offensive rebounds) and we outrebounded them 5-3 overall here. Throw in a couple of Cardinal steals and they were toast.
I know I have been getting a little heat from some of you for harping on our occasional poor play in the areas of free throws and rebounding. But, I hope this illustrates just how critical they are. I get on Jennings a lot for his lack of production in the rebounding area and I think my criticisms are valid. Last night for example, TJ played pretty well but he only had 5 rebounds and he was the biggest guy on the floor. Smith, Kurik, Siva, Deing, Marra, and Team all had that many or more. That means that we really rebounded well as a team (what Coach often says we have to do). And last night we did it, and beat a team that is more experienced, bigger and at least as good shooting the ball as we are. We had 8 team rebounds in addition to the individual ones which matched ND's leading rebounders total. And we had 23 offensive rebounds to their 10. Absolutely outstanding! But having to send that many guys to the boards does limit our ability to get out on the break. Notice how few breakaway layups we have gotten lately? It's probably a good trade off but our inability to control the boards without crashing everyone in there does tale away some of our offense. I don't hate TJ and I recognize that he brings some things to the table, but his inability to be a dominate force on the boards definitely limits what we can do.
My other pet peeve is free throws. Both our giving the other team too many and our not being able to get and make our own. There is no question that this will cost us if we don't fix it. But last night we not only shot 80% ourselves and made 20 free throws, we limited them to19 giving us a +1 advantage at the line. That has been very rare for us and if we can keep this up, we are in very good shape. And that is not to mention that all those fouls cause us to sit some of our guys for extended periods of time when we could really use them.
Two final points:
First they had four guys who played more than 40 minutes (three of whom played more the 43 minutes). I think the depth of our bench really came through for us last night. They may not be McDonald All Americans, but they are talented, dedicated and really performed like winners. Kudos to all of them.
Second, extra kudos go out to Kyle Kurik. He not only played very well (6-8 and 2-4 from 3pt, 14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal) but I didn't realize until I saw the box score this morning that he played all 45 minutes. The only player on either team to do that. What a great person to represent what this team is all about - heart!