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Men’s Basketball: Still perfect

Matt Gamber | Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Senior guard Ben Hansbrough scored 19 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to help No. 25 Notre Dame shake off a pesky Indiana State team, 81-72, Tuesday night at the Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish (8-0) are off to their best start in 11 years under coach Mike Brey, who wanted his team to enjoy its new spot in the top 25.

“I’m proud of them that they’ve earned it, they deserve it, and I think they’ll handle it the right way,” said Brey, who called the win over the Sycamores (3-4) a “grind-it-out game.”

“I thought we were methodical, we were confident, and we thought, ‘we’re getting this,'” Brey said.

But the Sycamores, led by Dwayne Lathan’s 22 points, didn’t make it easy on their hosts. Indiana State started 5-of-6 from the field and led 11-10 at the first media timeout. The Sycamores used a Jake Kelly 3-pointer to take a 16-12 lead before Notre Dame scored the next seven points, highlighted by a Hansbrough dunk that put the Irish up 17-16.

Notre Dame led 38-33 at halftime and used an 8-2 run to start the second half to build a 46-35 advantage. The Irish lead hovered around that margin the rest of the way, as Notre Dame shot 60 percent from the field in the second half and made 4-of-9 three-pointers.

“We were pretty poised,” Brey said. “It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t flowing great, but like down in Orlando, nobody really panicked.”

All five Irish starters scored in double figures and accounted for all but two Notre Dame points, with Hansbrough leading the way by going 8-of-12 from the floor, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.

“Ben let the game come to him,” said Brey, who also praised Hansbrough’s second-half defensive effort. “I’m so proud of how he’s leading us. He’s set a great tone for us.”

Senior forward Tyrone Nash scored 16 points and grabbed seven boards, and senior guard Scott Martin scored 15 points, including the first seven of the game for Notre Dame. Forwards Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Tuesday’s win ended a stretch of four games in six days for the Irish, who were playing their first game since capturing the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., over the weekend. Brey said his team will now be “downshifting through Sunday,” with days off Wednesday and Saturday.

“We’re thrilled with the start. I think it’s given our guys a lot of confidence,” Brey said. “I know we’ve played eight — glance at the next eight. I glanced at it and threw it back in my notebook a little bit.”

That “next eight” includes Kentucky, Gonzaga, Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut and St. John’s – with all but Kentucky and Syracuse at home. The eight-game stretch lasts exactly a month and begins Dec. 8 with the Wildcats at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.