June 28, 2006
posted by Chris Masters, Assistant Sports Information Director
Back for another edition of the BasketBlog after rolling in from Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and the second leg of the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Game. This time around, I found a seat right next to a Purdue fan, which I expected would make for some interesting conversation during the evening's doubleheader. This gentleman couldn't have been nicer, though, and was extremely knowledgeable about both our incoming players and the future Boilermakers, on both the men's and women's side.
Once again, it was ladies first, as the Indiana girls looked to finish off their sweep of Kentucky, not to mention complete a perfect 5-0 run that included three wins over the Junior All-Stars. The Kentuckians put up another good fight, but the Hoosiers led from tip to buzzer and ended up winning 75-63. Future Irish cager Ashley Barlow posted her second double-double against Kentucky in as many weekends with a game-high 17 points, a team-best 11 rebounds and five steals, earning the game's MVP award. Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, she did also have nine turnovers in the contest (what we in the SID business sometimes call a near triple-double the hard way), but in her defense, some of the giveaways were errors of "aggression", rather than unforced mental mistakes, and on more than one occasion, she worked a pick-and-roll only to find her entry pass to the post disappeared when the post stopped rolling.
Ashley also received the John Wooden Citizenship Award at halftime for her work on the court, in the classroom and out in the community. And having met Ashley already, this didn't surprise me in the least, as she is one motivated and enthusiastic individual.
Our other future Irish freshman, Melissa Lechlitner, didn't have a lot of her effort show up on the stat sheet, but did a lot of the proverbial dirty work to help Indiana get the win. Taking to heart her coach's missive that defense would be the key to victory, Lech dogged one of Kentucky's best players, Meredith Marsh (a Vanderbilt signee), and held her to six points and only four shot attempts. Melissa also came up big when the situation called for it, canning a pair of foul-line jumpers after the Kentuckians got within a point twice in the early stages of the second half. The latter bucket started a 10-0 Hoosier run and the rest was history -- Lech finished with eight points and a team-high three assists in the contest.
Switch it on over to the boys' game, where the Indiana side was vastly superior talent-wise to their Kentucky counterparts, even without Mr. Basketball Greg Oden in uniform. That was evident after about five minutes of action, as future Notre Dame freshman Luke Harangody ran roughshod through the Bluegrass defense for six points and five boards, capped off by a two-hand slam. The game was never in doubt, as like the Indiana girls, the guys led all the way in a 94-66 rout.
Although the opposition wasn't exactly the same caliber he'll see in the BIG EAST next season, Luke turned in a blue-collar effort at both ends, nearly finishing with a double-double as he had 12 points (on 6-of-9 shooting), a team-high nine rebounds and four blocks. The Conseco crowd also had a noticeable buzz about them whenever Luke was in the game and his presence was certainly not lost on the Kentucky side either. In fact, midway through the second half, Kentucky's Vincent Crutcher made the mistake of trying to drive baseline on Luke, who cut him off at the pass and took the charge with ease. After a thunderous collision, Luke popped right back up off the deck and jogged back to down court. As for Crutcher, well, let's just say he needed a hand getting off the floor and did not return. In the words of one of my favorite college PA announcers -- "access denied."
A couple of familiar Notre Dame faces were in the crowd at Conseco, the most recognizable being former Irish point guard and Indianapolis native Chris Thomas, who took up a seat on the baseline, signed numerous autographs and took photos with fans at the contest. Thomas, the 2001 Indiana Mr. Basketball, was there in support of two of his fellow Pike High School alums -- Barlow and Curtis White (who is headed to Howard this fall). Barlow's cousin, Ken, a former Irish standout from the 1980s, also was in the stands on Saturday.
Some other random notes as the summer heats up:
As regular readers on und.com have seen, rising sophomore Luke Zeller will suit up with Athletes in Action for the R. William Jones Cup next month in Taiwan. These international competitions have traditionally turned out to be a great opportunity for players to work and improve their game and I'd expect to see nothing less from Luke when he returns from the Far East. We're hoping to get some first-person updates from Luke during his time in Taiwan, and we'll keep you posted.
Luke, rising junior Rob Kurz and women's basketball junior-to-be Melissa D'Amico all will spend time this summer working under the tutelage of noted "big-man" guru Pete Newell at his camps out West. Mel will head to San Diego for the women's version of the camp the second week of July, while Luke and Rob go to Vegas for the men's camp later in the month.
Keep an eye on the NBA Draft tonight, as recently-departed Irish standouts Chris Quinn and Torin Francis could get a call in the second round. After a rough start, CQ has played well in some of his later pre-draft workouts, and both men could fill an important supporting role for one of the 32 NBA clubs. Whether they're drafted or not, both CQ and Torin likely will be in action on NBA Summer League teams, which tend to be more of a proving ground for the young up-and-coming talent in the league.
Not to be overlooked, Notre Dame has three players suiting up in the WNBA this season. Now in her fourth season in Detroit (and sixth overall), Ruth Riley is in the midst of her most productive campaign since 2003 when the Shock went "worst-to-first" and won the league title with Ruth being named the Finals MVP after working over Lisa Leslie in the decisive third game. An every-day starter for Detroit, Ruth is averaging 8.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game with a .519 field goal percentage, ranking among the top 10 in the league in the last two categories. In her second pro season, Jacqueline Batteast also is playing for Detroit, but her court time has been a bit limited this season -- she is averaging 0.6 points and 0.7 rebounds in 11 games to date. Meanwhile, Megan Duffy is enjoying a solid rookie season in Minnesota as a backup point guard for the Lynx, logging 3.8 points and 1.2 assists while playing in all 13 games (12.6 minutes per night).