Wednesday, January 9, 2013

MSG Magic

Notre Dame enters tonight's contest against Kansas State with a 5-2 record after posting a 76-65 win over Eastern Michigan at home on Saturday. It was the Irish’s third-straight win -- all at home -- since dropping back-to-back one-point heartbreakers to Baylor and Georgia Tech in the Paradise Jam on Nov. 18 and 19.

Junior guard Kyle McAlarney paced three players in double figures with 21 points on 8-of-10 field goals, including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc, against EMU, while sophomore forward Luke Harangody and junior guard Ryan Ayers added 18 points and 12 points, respectively. The team shot 56.3 percent from the field in the victory, including 61.5 percent in the first half, and had just nine turnovers.

One of the top defensive teams in the country, Notre Dame is holding opponents to just 60.6 points per game this season on 39.1 percent shooting from the field, which will come in handy tonight since KSU converting on 50.6 percent (160-of-316) of its 2-point field goals. That is good news since the Irish have struggled at time to hold the opposition from beyond the 3 point arc (Georgia Tech and the late surge by Eastern Michigan).

The big assignment tonight is to contain heralded freshman Michael Beasley. Beasley averages 26.7 points and 15 rebounds a contest. He also is shooting 60.8 percent from the field, including 47.1 percent from 3-point range to go with 1.6 assists, 1.6blocks and 1.1 steals in 31.9 minutes per game. So yeah, wow! There will be a rotation of players guarding Beasley, starting with Junior swingman Ryan Ayers. Depending on the success, look for Zach Hillesland to disrupt Beasley's flow of the game.

The Irish are just as formidable on the offensive end, averaging 78.3 points on 47.7 percent shooting, including 43.4 percent from 3-point range. It is also averaging 39.7 rebounds, 19.7 assists, 7.0 steals and 4.3 blocks per game.

This is a contest I predicted the Irish would lose. After watching their contest against Oregon, I honestly believe Notre Dame, can steal this one because of a few factors: 1) Familiarity at the Garden. Notre Dame has played in the historic Madison Square Garden now for years. The glitz and glamour and being awed will not be a factor for the Irish. It will be the Wildcats’ first regular-season visit to the Garden in school history and the first since playing two games in the 1994
Postseason NIT. The program has never won a game in four overall contests in the building. 2) The youth movement. One of the nation’s top recruiting classes has been a big success so far for Kansas State, as the newcomers have posted over 60 percent of the Wildcats’ total points (380), rebounds (187), steals (32) and blocks (18) and over 50 percent of the total assists (62). In all, four of the top-5 scorers and each of the top-3 rebounders are either freshmen or first-year players in the program. Once again how much of the bright lights of New York will get into the Wildcat players' minds, especially Beasley?

This matchup is like one of those bruising Big East Conference games for the Irish, especially since it is playing in MSG. The emergence of the long ball from McAlarney, Ayers, and Luke Zellar will create opportunities for Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody down low. As long as Beasley is held under 20 points, this one should go to the Irish in a close, hard fought Jimmy V Classic!

Notre Dame 79
Kansas State 73

Notes and Stuff
~ This will mark the fifth all-time meeting between Kansas State and Notre Dame on the hardwood and the first since the two played in the second round of the Postseason NIT in 1992. Notre Dame owns a 3-1 advantage all-time in the series.

~ Since coming back from the Virgin Island's, Notre Dame has been hitting their shots with relative ease. The Irish have shot 91-175 (.520) from the field and 30-61 (.492) from threepoint range. Against Eastern Michigan on Saturday night, the Irish connected on 56.3 percent (25-52) from the field and 62.5 percent (10-16) from three-point range — both season bests.

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