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Men’s Basketball: Back on track

Mike Gotimer | Monday, January 24, 2011

What a difference a week makes.

Just six days after a second straight blowout loss, No. 16 Notre Dame rebounded with a 80-75 comeback win over Marquette.

The Golden Eagles (13-7, 4-3 Big East) took their largest lead of the game when senior guard Dwight Buycks hit a 3 in the opening minute of the second half to make the score 48-36. The Irish (16-4, 5-3), however, set off on a 17-5 run to tie the game at 53 with 14:20 remaining in the game.

Just moments later Irish senior guard Ben Hansbrough managed to provide the spark that would ensure a Notre Dame victory. With the score tied at 57, Hansbrough chased down a loose ball as the shot clock ticked down. He grabbed the ball just in front of the Notre Dame bench, turned around, and launched a fade away 3-pointer with three seconds left on the shot clock. The shot somehow found the bottom of the basket to give the Irish their first lead since the opening minute. On the ensuing possession, Hansbrough beat his man off the dribble and rose up for a baseline dunk that gave the Irish a 62-57 lead and sent the Purcell Pavilion crowd into a frenzy. Hansbrough finished with a career-high 28 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds.

“I just had the angle,” Hansbrough said. “I am capable of doing that. We work on that every day in three man weave. The opportunity got there, I just went up and finished it strong and it went in.”

Marquette looked as though it might shoot Notre Dame out of the building, something it did in the teams’ first meeting this season, after it opened up an 11-4 lead with three consecutive 3-pointers just over three minutes into the game.

Hansbrough kept Notre Dame in range by scoring the team’s first seven points, and scores from senior forward Tyrone Nash and freshman guard Eric Atkins tied the game at 11 with just over 14 minutes to go in the opening half.

Marquette, however, took a lead — a lead it wouldn’t relinquish until Hansbrough’s 3-pointer — on a layup by senior guard Jimmy Butler, and the Golden Eagles took a 45-36 lead into halftime. Marquette shot a blistering 71.5 percent from 3-point range in the period.

After the half, Notre Dame switched into a 2-3 zone, which threw the Golden Eagles off their rhythm as they shot just 30 percent from the field in the second half and 38.5 percent from three point range.

“It was no different than the Wisconsin or Georgia game where we’re down double digits,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We really don’t have any answers in man to man, so let’s try to change their rhythm a little bit. Their shots came up but in a little different rhythm. All of a sudden, it’s a little different shooting when the game pressure comes on you. Overall, I thought we did a good job knowing who the three shooters were.”

Early in the game, Irish fourth-year forward Tim Abromaitis and senior forward Carleton Scott had trouble getting into a rhythm, combining for just two points. Atkins, however, bailed out the upperclassmen with 12 points in the first half, including two timely threes that kept Notre Dame within striking distance of Marquette.

“I got open looks,” Atkins said. “Everybody on this team is confident in me shooting the ball. I just took my opportunities.”

Abromaitis and Scott heated up early in the second half, however, helping ignite Notre Dame’s second half run. Abromaitis hit a three with 17:59 remaining in the second half to cut the lead to single digits and Scott dunked home a putback just over a minute later that began to swing the momentum in Notre Dame’s favor. In his second game back from injury, Scott recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“[We showed] perseverance,” Scott said. “We have to take the punches. They threw some punches. We definitely have to weather the storm. That’s what we did.”

Notre Dame takes the court again tonight against No. 3 Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN.