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Men’s Basketball: Second-half surge propels squad to win over Long Beach St.

Eric Prister | Friday, November 20, 2009

After a close first half that saw 12 lead changes and the Irish clinging to a two-point lead, Notre Dame came out hot in the second half and was able to overcome an athletic Long Beach State 82-62.

“It was kind of like a Big East game in the first half,” senior forward Luke Harangody said. “They were hitting shots and getting in the lane. In the second half we came out, and we were aware that we were the better team, and when we needed to put them away, we did.”

Harangody led the Irish with 29 points and 12 rebounds over a team-high 37 minutes, but it was senior Ben Hansbrough that sparked the Irish out of the break, scoring seven points and adding two assists during Notre Dame’s 17-6 to start the second half, a lead which they held throughout the rest of the game.

“I told [Hansbrough] at halftime,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I said, ‘We’re going to run the first thing for you. I want you to curl it and get to the basket right away.’ We just wanted to see if we could get him going. Luckily he gets in there and gets a bucket and now he’s starting to feel part of it. His drives are really important for us; that’s an important thing in our offense now.”

Hansbrough finished the game with 11 points and a team-high seven assists, and was one of five Irish players to record double-digit points. He went down twice during the game, first after a hard fall while going up for a rebound, and then later after rolling his ankle, but was able to recover, playing 34 minutes for the Irish.

“Hansbrough is like one of the hybrid Cadillac trucks — he brings it all,” senior point guard Tory Jackson said. “He can drive, but also he’s a guy that can spread the floor, so when I drive, I can kick it out to him and get my assists. He’s a great shooter, so having him to be in that attack mode early like he was today, and kind of get me into a rhythm to take shots, it keeps my confidence going. He set the bar today, driving to the hole, getting fouled, getting rebounds. He set the bar high, and having him as that other guide is very good for me.”

Jackson scored 13 for the Irish and added three steals, but it is his role as orchestrator of the offense that will make him so crucial for Notre Dame as the season progresses.

“I talked to [Jackson] about just keeping it really simple,” Brey said. “He doesn’t have to make high degree of difficulty plays, just orchestrate the team. When he’s playing like that, he’s really a key for us, and I’ve tried to reinforce that for him. He hasn’t forced things, he’s anchored us defensively, and he’s really a great voice in the huddles out there when I can’t be in them. We have to keep that going, and that’s really important for us, but I sure like the rhythm he’s in.”

Long Beach State struggled to shoot the ball consistently throughout the game, shooting 41 percent from field goal range on the night. The 49ers’ two leading scorers, sophomores Larry Anderson and T.J. Robinson, paced the team with 20 and 16 points, respectively, but the rest of the team shot just 26 percent for the game, which kept them at a distance from Notre Dame in the second half.

“The difference in the game was them coming out in the second half and turning up the pressure, and us not being able to handle it,” 49ers’ coach Dan Monson said. “I’m disappointed in how we responded at halftime. In the locker room, I said, ‘You’re going to have to stand up to them because they’re going to come at you,’ and to let them score the first six times to start the second half and just take control of the game that easily was the most disappointing thing.”

Junior Tim Abromaitis also stepped up for the Irish, scoring 11 points off the bench in 22 minutes of play. He has scored double-digits in each of Notre Dame’s first three games this season.

“[Abromaitis] continues to be big for us,” Brey said. “He had some big, in-traffic rebounds, and he continues to make big shots and we need him to do that. His teammates, especially the seniors, started the process this summer. They knew how much we needed him and they stayed on him hard.”

Notre Dame will look to keep up their momentum with two home games against Liberty and Kennesaw State before travelling to the UIC Pavillion in Chicago, Ill. for the Chicago Invitational Challenge on Nov. 27 and 28.

“This has been good to have the uniforms on every other day, and really evaluate who we are, and who guys are and trying to develop some identity,” Brey said. “We’re trying to get better each game, just trying not to get ahead of ourselves, and we have two more games to try and improve on some things before we head over to Chicago for the [Chicago Invitational Challenge].”