Marquette came into South Bend playing with house money. Their #17 ranking seemed to already have a loss to ND baked in, so their spot in the polls and RPI could only go up. They also showed that they are in fact an excellent defensive team, and if I were the Denver Pioneers, I would not be so excited about the prospect of playing them twice before the NCAAs. Today's recap will have a quick summary followed by an airing of grievances.
The Irish got off to a good start, ending the half up 5-2 with the defense looking solid and Matt Kavanaugh finding just enough in the Marquette defense to keep the score ticking. In the second half, the offense could not do a thing and the defense started to lose discipline in the long Marquette possessions. Marquette tied it up mid way in the 4th, an after some tense moments the game went into overtime, where Matt Kavanaugh (4g, 1a) took care of business. and scored a beauty 30 seconds in.
A few positive notes:
*A healthy Matt Kavanaugh is fun to watch. He has a huge arsenal of offensive weapons, and still puts 100% effort into the ride. Still the King of Clutch.
*LSM Jim Sexton continues to excel. He is fantastic on the faceoff wing, great on D, a ground ball machine (7 today), crazy fast, and always a threat to score. It's hard to overestimate the impact to the transition offense of having an LSM who can score. Defenses like to cheat towards covering the attackmen, but Sexton will make you pay.
*Shane Doss continues to play great in net. 9 solid saves. Perhaps not statistically his best effort, but he looked good again today.
*Faceoff unit had a fantastic day. Finley and Travisano won 13 of 18 against a top-5 faceoff unit. The improvement in the last two games has been fantastic. The mix of both players, combined with aggressive wing play, has become a great combination. It was clear in the first half of the season that the team would not be successful using Finley as a possession FOGO. He's better in a dynamic role, and this wrinkle of using Travisano to complement him is inspired.
Now for the complaints (more of them constructive criticism rather than true complaints):
*2 stinking assists. Outside of Kavanaugh, this team has been horrible at passing the ball. Given that they're not the best dodging team either, this presents a problem desperately in need of a solution. Kavanaugh had several clever feeds mishandled or dropped, and even the relatively simple passes are sloppy.
*The ride was off today. Effort was less than 100% and Marquette cleared the first 16/16. This further resulted in far fewer transition opportunities which the Irish need to score with the 6-on-6 offense still in such poor shape. They showed some of their season's form in the waning minutes of the 4th, but they shouldn't need their backs to the wall to put up full effort.
*Seven goals is not a bad defensive stat line, but I think Coach Byrne will look at the film and tell his team a more offensive minded team would have scored 15 on them today. They gave up time and space way too often, and were just fortunate the shots weren't taken. Plus, they could do themselves a big favor by being sharper with the ground balls. Too many whiffs led to extended Marquette possessions.
*Ryder Garnsey: He went to the well with the same move way too many times. His signature move coming around from the back right is a great move, but it's a lot less effective when you don't try anything else. Some variation, which is well with his excellent abilities, would do wonders for the offense in general and his stat line.
*Mikey Wynne; Perhaps is was just a bad day, but 0 goals on 8 shots from that close range cannot be repeated. To be fair, the waive-off of his goal was in our opinion a mistake by the refs that nearly cost ND the game, but #24 has been landing near 50%, so he should have had much more to show for those opportunities.
*Kyle Trolley: Sunday we noted that hanging his stick out box-lacrosse style would bite him in the butt, and it did today with three avoidable turnovers. Marquette is way too good a defense to let him get away with that.
*Matt Landis: He played three or so great quarters then started to lose discipline. It seemed to us that he thought that since he wasn't going up against Myles Jones or Deemer Class that he could take unreasonable risks. As was exposed on the McNamara goal to tie the game for Marquette, a shot at a trailing stick check that close to the cage was a bad idea that got him beat badly. He played well generally and the Irish won, so #MattLandisTewaaraton is still in effect, but he'll need to watch himself against North Carolina and in the ACC tournament in front of the weekend ESPN crowds.
*Ed Glazener: He's not as fast as Sexton and needs to take care trying to go coast to coast. While we appreciate the effort, it seems to us that he is much better staying back and avoiding extending himself out.
*Looking back at our game keys, as noted above there was no improvement in the sloppiness and this kept Marquette in the game. They did follow the key of scoring early and often, but took their foot off the gas mostly through poor offensive play. The faceoff unit kept their positive trend as noted as a key to the game, but the offense did nothing with it.
It's fortunate that we can air complaints after a win as opposed to a loss, but expectations are high for this team and they need to be. It was a short rest, midweek game (and they won), so all is forgiven, but we hope they study carefully the film of this game and make the necessary improvements. They certainly have more than enough talent to do it. Plus, we need to appreciate how resilient this team is. Their ability to come back and close out games continues to impress. Well done guys!
The Irish take a break for a week and a half when they travel to North Carolina for a Saturday noon game, televised on ESPNU.
Let's take one more look at the game winner: