Feb. 28, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) – Ben Hansbrough took the microphone after the game, stood at midcourt and started complimenting all those around him. Almost like the Academy Awards.
He acknowledged coach Mike Brey, the wild fans at the Purcell Pavilion and his family sitting in the stands.
He was most appreciative of his teammates following his final home game for Notre Dame. That’s because he and the Irish made the night a memorable one with their shooting.
Tim Abromaitis hit a career-high nine 3-pointers and he and Hansbrough scored 30 points each as the eighth-ranked Irish routed No. 19 Villanova 93-72 on Monday night.
The victory ensured a double bye in the Big East tournament for Notre Dame and wrapped up a 17-0 season at home, the only Big East team to go unbeaten on its home court this season.
“It means a lot because I told these guys before the game to do it for us. I said let’s not do it for anybody else, just do it for ourselves, because of how hard we worked,” said Hansbrough, who hit seven of Notre Dame’s school-record 20 3-pointers.
Brey, initially worried his team might be a bit tight, called the offensive performance “off the charts.”
“Obviously we shot it good but we got good shots,” Brey said.
Abromaitis’ nine 3-pointers were one shy of the school record set by Kyle McAlarney against North Carolina in 2008.
“I was telling Abro, ‘Did you know we hit 16 3s, combined?’ He was like, ‘What?”‘ said Hansbrough, who had 10 assists and five steals.
“That was a decent little shooting night. I think that’s just part of our mental preparation and guys getting in the gym and working on their shots. We shot the ball incredible tonight.”
Villanova’s defense just didn’t put any pressure on the perimeter.
“I don’t think they really focused on shooters like some other teams do. Earlier in the year, I think I would have paid good money to get a couple of those looks,” Abromaitis said. “I think I surprised myself getting that open.”
And he couldn’t believe the Irish made 20 from long range.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before and I don’t know if I’ll ever see that again,” Abromaitis said.
Notre Dame (24-5, 13-4) finished 20 for 32 on 3-pointers. The Irish, shooting 37.7 percent from 3-point range this season, were 11 for 19 in the first half, including 4 of 6 from Hansbrough, to build a 47-27 lead. The Irish led by as many as 25 points in the first half and 32 in the second, sending a spirited home crowd into a frenzy as they made one open 3-pointer after another.
Among those cheering Hansbrough were his family, including brother Tyler, the former North Carolina All-American now with the Indiana Pacers. Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly was in a front-row seat.
“We’ve seen a lot of great players this year so far. After that performance, I’d say he’s the best I’ve seen now,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Hansbrough.
“That kid just dominated the game. He did a great job on Corey Fisher. He defended, he controlled the tempo. He broke the press by himself, he made shots and got everyone else shots.”
Fisher, the Wildcats’ leading scorer who was coming off a two-point game in a loss to St. John’s, led Villanova (21-9, 9-8) with 22 points, 17 in the second half.
Plagued again by cold shooting, Villanova lost for the fifth time in seven games in its late-season slump. The Wildcats missed their first seven 3-point attempts and were 2 for 10 from long range in the first half.
The Irish wasted little time in taking control as Carleton Scott started the scoring with a 3-pointer, Abromaitis made two from long range and Hansbrough added another in an opening 14-4 run less than 4 minutes into the game.
The demonstrative Hansbrough finished the opening half with 16 points, pumping his fist at made baskets by his teammates and even smiling after feeding Abromaitis in the corner for another 3.
Notre Dame’s previous record for 3-pointers was 19 against South Dakota on Dec. 2, 2008.
“There was nothing we could really do,” Fisher said of the 3-point barrage. “We tried to put pressure on them to speed the game up. They like to run the shot clock down, get Hansbrough on some ball screens, play hard and they kept hitting big shots.”