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Men’s Basketball: Scarlet fever

Andrew Gastelum | Monday, February 7, 2011

They’re called free throws for a reason.

No. 9 Notre Dame survived a scare at home from a struggling Rutgers team by shooting 27-34 from the charity stripe as a part of a 76-69 victory Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a great weapon to have to be able to draw fouls and shoot [free throws] at a good rate,” Irish coach Mike Brey said of the 10 fouls the Scarlet Knights (12-11, 3-8 Big East) committed in the first 6:40 of the second half.

Rutgers held the lead only once in the opening minutes of the game, but it never backed down from the Irish (19-4, 8-3), even after a shot from senior guard Ben Hansbrough in the second half brought the Irish lead to 11 with 5:27 remaining.

Hansbrough had 25 points but struggled from the field, only shooting 6-15, including 2-8 from beyond the arc. But the sharpshooter was 11-13 from the free throw line, sealing the victory after hitting two free throws with 0:28 remaining to make it 72-68.

“We were definitely tested in this one,” Hansbrough said. “But it’s almost good to make the mistakes we made as long as we learn from them and come out with the win.”

Hansbrough was hounded all game by long defenders that limited his movement, one of those forwards being Rutgers’ leading scorer, the 6-foot-7 senior forward Jonathan Mitchell.

But it wasn’t enough to snatch a victory from the Irish, who have yet to lose at home this season.

“Hansbrough does a great job of using his body and using your weight against you to create fouls,” Mitchell said after his 24-point performance. “They did a great job of attacking us.”

The Irish didn’t have to solely rely on Hansbrough this time around as four players scored in double figures, including senior forward Carleton Scott who notched his fifth double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

“After the first half, we definitely felt like we could go out there and hit the boards,” Scott said of Notre Dame’s 36 rebounds. “Coach [Brey] always tells us that defensive rebounds jump start the offense so we just made sure that we did everything we could to be scrappy on the defensive end.”

Scott’s game was highlighted by a put-back dunk on his own missed shot that sparked the crowd into frenzy and gave the Irish a 66-58 lead with 6:07 remaining.

“Those kind of plays can really get everyone going,” Scott said. “It was an off-balance shot with one hand but the shooter always knows where the ball is going to end up so I just made a play on it.”

Meanwhile, in the last eight minutes of the game, the Irish only made two field goals, relying on seniors Scott Martin (14 points) and Hansbrough in the second half to hit 10 free throws for their final 10 points of the game

“It was a night for our old guys to win the game,” Brey said. “We would make a mistake and they did a good job of moving on to the next play. They didn’t panic.”

Notre Dame’s win launches a three-game Big East stretch this week as the Irish will host No. 15 Louisville on Wednesday before hitting the road to take on South Florida Feb. 12.