There are no more beauty pageants. At this stage in the season, all that matters is that the outcome results in win (even if it is a victory that is immediately proceeded by full-field wind sprints as a form of victory punishment). The opponent dispatched, the performance in the game, expectations against reality -- these are all subordinated concerns to simply earning a win in whatever form it comes and advancing to the next round of the tournament. Issues around comparative strength in mid-May is nothing more than an exercise in proving that a B.A. in "Genius" was awarded from the University of Intelligence. And it's a good thing for Notre Dame that the season has progressed to this stage because the Irish's effort against a feisty Detroit team was not the kind of 60-minute effort that comes with a thoughtful gift from Edible Arrangements.
Like the Yale-Penn State game that preceded it, Detroit-Notre Dame was a game of halves but neither the Elis or Nittany Lions had the kind of "burn it; never happened" 30 minutes of play that the Irish endured in its first two quarters against the Titans. A combination of Detroit playing out of its mind -- the Titans held a six-opportunity advantage in the first half, scored on over 31 percent of their offensive opportunities (something Notre Dame rarely lets the opposition do (especially against offenses that struggle like the Titans)), shot over 31 percent, saw A.J. Levell hold a 75.00 save percentage, and caused turnovers on about 40 percent of their defensive opportunities while only committing unforced turnovers on about 13 percent of its offensive opportunities -- and Notre Dame continually putting its hand on the stove to check the temperature -- notably, the Irish's committment of unforced turnovers (about 30 percent of their offensive opportunities resulted in an unforced giveaway) exacerbated the problem of Detroit causing turnovers all over the place, the result being that Notre Dame turned the ball over on about 70 percent of their first half opportunities (exactly zero of those turnovers coming on failed clearing attempts) -- created a situation where Detroit took a 5-1 lead into the intermission. I don't think it's hyperbole to say that the Titans completely outplayed the second-seeded Irish for the first 30 minutes of play, dominating possession and performing as if they were the team with eyes toward Championship Weekend. Two scoreless streaks of that each extended over ten minutes in length -- the Irish were scoreless for the first 17:52 of the game; Detroit kept Notre Dame off the board for the final 12:08 of the second quarter after the Irish's lone tally -- were ominous omens for a Notre Dame team that had arguably reached its nadir on the season.
The volition of the game didn't change immediately for the Irish out of the intermission; rather, it was a slow build for Notre Dame that exponentially exploded in the fourth quarter. The beginning of the third period meandered a bit, but a Sean Rogers goal with about five minutes gone in the penultimate quarter drew the Irish within three. A Detroit goal from Tom Masterson just two minutes later pushed the Titans cushion back out to four, but from that point on it was all Irish: Notre Dame won seven of the ensuing 10 faceoffs, held Detroit scoreless for the final 19:57 of play, shot 35 percent, forced A.J. Levell into a 46.15 save percentage in that stretch, committed just eight turnovers over the 20 possessions the Irish had in that portion of the game, and took advantage of Detroit's inability to clear (the Irish scored five goals -- four were in succession, erasing a 7-3 deficit and knotting the game at seven -- directly off failed clears from the Titans (Matt Kavanagh accounted for three of those goals)). It was the urgency and performance that everyone expected from the Irish; it just happened to come in a compact portion of the game.
Notre Dame moves on to face the winner of Loyola-Duke at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis next weekend.
Here's a truncated tempo-free box score:
|Offensive Efficiency (per 100 Offensive Opportunities)||21.21||27.27|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||0.82||0.91|
|Offensive Shooting Percentage||25.93%||30.00%|
|Turnovers (per 100 Offensive Opportunities)||48.48||48.48|
|Caused Turnovers (per 100 Defensive Opportunities)||24.24||18.18|
|Unforced Turnovers (per 100 Offensive Opportunities)||30.30||24.24|
|Team Save Percentage||52.63%||58.82%|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||30.30||30.30|