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  • Gritty Irish Refuse to Lose

    by Kevin O'Neill

    After sitting on the bench with four fouls, Ben Hansbrough re-entered the game with 8:34 to play and Notre Dame leading 60-52.  He lasted 10 seconds before being called for charging, and Connecticut scored the next 13 points before the Irish answered.

    Down 65-60 with 4:26 left in the game, ND switched to zone, put the clamps on UConn’s offense, and rallied to a 70-67 road victory behind Ty Nash’s 7 points in the last 4 minutes.  Nash also assisted Scott Martin’s jumper that tied the game at 65.

    “Ty Nash stepped up and played unbelievable,” Hansbrough said after the game.

    Hansbrough led the Irish with 21 points in his 27 minutes on the floor.  Nash and Carleton Scott added 13 points apiece, and Tim Abromaitis scored 11.  UConn’s Kemba Walker scored 34 points, but no other Husky got to double digits as the team made just one basket in the last 4 minutes, a put-back after an offensive rebound by Jamal Coombs-McDaniel with a minute left to play.

    UConn had one last chance to tie after Nash made a pair of free throws with 0:08 left, but Walker’s pass to Donnell Beverly in the corner was at his feet.  Beverly couldn’t control it, and Scott secured the ball and the game as the buzzer sounded.

    Three Walker jumpshots and a nice post move by Alex Oriakhi staked UConn to a 10-4 lead five and a half minutes into the game; but the Irish answered with three jumpers by Abromaitis, one by Eric Atkins, and one by Hansbrough to give ND a 19-18 lead at the 10:00 mark.  The teams parried for the next 8 minutes until UConn staged a mini-run to a 5 point lead with 1:21 left.  Scott finally stopped the run with a short jumper, and UConn took a 36-33 lead to halftime.

    Even though Hansbrough went to the bench after his fourth foul, a Walker flop away from the ball with 12:24 left, it looked like the Irish were on their way to victory after systematically building a 60-50 lead through the first 10 minutes of the second half.  Then Hansbrough returned and was immediately whistled for his fifth foul.  Connecticut sensed that it had new life.

    Was it too early for Hansbrough’s return?  Notre Dame coach Mike Brey doesn’t think so.  “Ben Hansbrough is a 23-year-old fifth-year senior and I put him in on an offensive possession,”  Brey said. “He’s got to be better.”

    Walker scored 11 of UConn’s 13 points after Hansbrough went to the bench as the Huskies built a 65-60 lead.  Nash finally made a short jump shot to stop the run.   He was fouled and made the free throw to cut the lead to 2 points and, more importantly, show ND a scoring option.

    ND switched to zone to stop Walker’s penetration; and it worked.  UConn scored just one more basket the rest of the way, a jump shot by Coombs-McDaniel.

    Meanwhile, Martin tied the game on a jumper after a nice feed from Nash, Nash drew a foul from Charles Okwandu in the post and made both free throws, and one more Nash free throw set the final margin of victory.

    “I thought we did a really good job of getting low post touches,” said Brey.  “We love running our offense through Ty Nash.  Even if Ben is in, that’s a good thing for us because he calms us and he can pass it from there.  We did a really good job of going inside-out.”

    Walker played an outstanding game, but that didn’t take the sting out today’s loss and the missed opportunity to get a bye in the conference tournament.  “I just wanted to win,” he said.  “It would have been a big win for us, but we didn’t get it, so now we just have to look forward.”

    On the other hand, Connecticut native Abromaitis was thrilled with the victory.  “(Winning here) is something I needed to experience, not knowing if we’re going to play here again next year,” he said.  “To be able to put it away in the end was something that was really fun for me and one of the greatest experiences I’ll have in college basketball.”

    Hansbrough was just relieved.  After starring for 27 minutes, he could have been the goat because his fifth foul was so unnecessary; but his teammates picked him up.   “I love all my teammates and I’m was just thrilled for them to go out and get it done,” he said. “It means a lot for me.”


    • If Pitt had faltered against Villanova, Notre Dame would have tied the Panthers for first place with the head-to-head tie breaker in its favor.  Alas, Pitt prevailed60-50.
    • Do not underestimate Atkins’ contribution to the victory.  His early points helped keep UConn from running away early, and his steady ball handling was vital to the comeback late in the game.  He finished with 6 points, a steal, 3 assists, and just 1 turnover in 21 minutes.
    • As intense as the game was, there were very few turnovers.  ND finished with 9, just 3 in the second half; and UConn only had 3 the entire game.
    • Notre Dame won the rebounding battle 32-27.  Abromaitis was the game’s leading rebounder with 7.  Martin had 6, and Jack Cooley had 5 rebounds in 13 minutes of playing time.
    • ND started its Big East road schedule 0-3.  Since the loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on January 16th, the Irish are 5-1 on the road.  They shot 25% from three point range in those first three games and 40% from long range in the final six road games including today’s 42%.
    • Today was Notre Dame’s second victory ever at Connecticut and its first in Gampel Pavilion.
    • Asked if the team would be ready for the conference tournament after such an emotional victory, Hansbrough answered, “Look how we’ve been all year.  We’ve never been satisfied no matter what we do.  We really haven’t done anything yet.”


    The Big East Tournament is next.  The Irish play at 7:00PM Thursday, opponent to be determined.  We’ll have a preview Thursday morning.

    – Kevin O’Neill

    12 Responses to “Gritty Irish Refuse to Lose”

    1. Scranton Dave says:

      Great gutty road win by the Irish!! As far as Hansbrough, his 5th foul was a really dumb play on his part, and hopefully he will work to tone it down on these silly fouls that sometimes plaque him. I dont blame Brey for putting Ben back in, he was trusting his 5th year senior. That being said, the 4th foul on Ben was one of the worst calls I have ever seen and it changed the momentum, as I feel ND was close to pulling away from UConn. Shame on that ref for making such an awful call.

      Now, ND has a 2 seed locked up and has a shot at a 1 seed in the NCAA Tourney depending on what happens in the conference tourneys.

      • I agree. The 4th foul on Ben was ridiculous.

        I am not sure what he was thinking on the 5th foul. He was away from the action and had just returned to the floor. So he decides to greet the UConn kid with a hip check?

    2. Psycho B was alarmingly foolish. His 4th foul was a terrible call though.

      The Irish got bailed out by Kemba the ball hog. They did not hit their free throws down the stretch and let the crowd get into their head. Atkins was key in keeping us from completely falling apart. Gutsy

    3. Scranton Dave says:

      Gutty road win by the Irish. Agree with Joe, the 5th foul by Ben was foolish, but the 4th was a god awful call. Now, the Irish have a legit shot at a 1 seed in the NCAAs.

    4. Nick Schoenfeld says:

      I believe that a loss by BYU, a loss by Purdue, and a POSSIBLE loss by Duke would put us in the top 4 in the country. 2 #1 seeds from the toughest conference ever is not entirely out of the question. I’m not sure though….I think I’d rather have a #2 seed and play in Chicago rather than a 1 seed somewhere far away. Either way…this team is awesome and a joy to watch.

    5. Jim Kress says:

      A bit early to be looking at seeding in the NCAA. Let’s win the Big East Tournament, then the seeding discussion will be rational.

    6. Hansbrough’s fourth call, a bump, is interesting because it happens thousands of time every game by both teams. Makes me wonder why the refs decided to call it then and against the dominant Irish player. Hmmm.

    7. Patrick Mikes '79 says:

      Agree the 4th call was outrageous. Was that a Pac-10 ref?

    8. I agree with Allen the consiparcy theorist. That 4th call was cheap and the 5th though obvious was cheap as well. Look contact away from the ball happens all the time and is neither seen nor called. I think Ben would agree it was a bone headed play but hey one bad play in a seasonfull of wonderful leadership and clutch shot making can be excused. Brey did take a little of the credit which was good.

      I don’t think you can over-estimate what this will do for the team. Ben is the clear leader of this team so winning without him, winning for him was a great boost for everyone else. Ben will be hyper motivated (like he needs that) to make this up to the team. We couldn’t be in better possition.

      I really would love to see this team win the BE championship. They have been close twice losing heart breakers in the final game. They are going to have to beat some teams they struggle with but have beaten this year. I think any 1 seed talk needs to be suspended until the win the BE championship. Anything less (even a loss in first game) and they should be a 2 seed.

      Revel in it Irish fans. This year could be a once in a generation Irish BB team. They have already proided the best regular season in memory and have not let us down all year. IMO they have been the most impressive team in the conference and the top 10. Who has played a better schedule? Who has more wins against top 25? Who has more quality home wins? Who dimantled some opponents at home and on the road? Who outplayed Wiscon at their style game? No one, other than the Irish. IMO we do deserve a 1 seed already but we will only get one if we win out. Thats OK because a 2 or 3 in Chicago will result in about the same challenge and they can meet it.

      Thanks again for the great season and I love this BB team more than any other ND BB in my life (40 years). I feel the same way I did about the last sweet 16 team. I just don’t want them to lose because they are fun to watch and their time as team is dwindling. Just imagine if they win out….don’t lose again this year. This team has streaked several times and why not now? Just win the next 9 games and make history and show the football team how its done! Just remember Butler was in the championship game last year and gave the mighty Duke all they could handle…..anything can happen when you have a team of quality uperclassmen.

      GO IRISH!!!!!

    9. This team is amazing! If ND wins the Big East they win it all. That will be the barometer. Winning would be an incredible lead in for the football team,as mentioned, and the Notre Dame psyche. Here’s hoping. Hollywood Hoppy.

    10. Scranton Dave says:

      I agree with Jim that it may be a bit premature to talk about NCAA seeding. That being said, when was the last time the Irish were in the discussion for a 1 seed? How can we not talk about it and be excited? Lunardi updated his #1s this morning and still has Duke as a #1 ahead of Notre Dame. I dont see how you can look at both those resumes and have Duke ahead of ND, I just dont. Notre Dame has 3 wins ( @ Pitt, @ UConn, Wisconsin neutral) that are better than any win Duke has. Lets see what happens in the conference tourneys. If Notre Dame at least gets to Saturday night I think they have a great case for a #1!