Dec. 11, 2010
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame’s lead reached 14 at one point in the second half and it looked like the Irish might cruise to a victory.
But they clanged some free throws, Gonzaga made some clutch shots and the Bulldogs trailed by only two twice in the final 13 seconds.
Ben Hansbrough then cut off the comeback, making four from the line as the 23rd-ranked Irish held on for an 83-79 victory Saturday night.
“It kind of makes us nervous, but we trust each other and the guys pulled it out,” said Carleton Scott, who led the Irish with a career-high 23 points – 19 in the first half.
“We trust each other and that is what’s the key. We work on those situations in practice and it’s like second nature to us,” Scott added.
The Irish (9-1), coming off a loss to Kentucky, got eight straight points from Tim Abromaitis to break a tie early in the second half and staved off the late rally before a boisterous home crowd.
Abromaitis finished with 21 points, 12 in the second half.
“I was pretty much taking what came to me. I was able to find myself open a couple of times. We have great passers and I knew if I was open, I’d get the looks and I was able to knock them down,” Abromaitis said.
Gonzaga (4-5) lost to a Top 25 team for the fourth time this season. The Bulldogs have struggled to defend the 3-pointer and did so again as Notre Dame hit 11 of 20 from beyond the arc – the same number Gonzaga made in the same number of attempts.
Elias Harris scored 19 and Steven Gray had 18 for the Bulldogs.
“We gave up the last game against Washington State and played horrible,” Harris said of the Bulldogs’ rally that came up short. “No way we can do that again. We got to keep fighting. At the end it was a tight game again.”
Harris, for one, said he’s not concerned about the slow start.
“We’ve played one of the hardest schedules in the nation this year. I’m pretty sure if other teams played the same schedule, they’d be in the same situation probably right now. … We got to keep fighting,” he said.
Notre Dame, which missed 12-of-36 free throw attempts, was up by 10 with 1:18 to go.
But after Harris hit two free throws, Gonzaga’s press forced a turnover and Gray hit his fifth 3-pointer of the night to cut the lead to 75-70 with a minute left.
And after Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins missed two from the line, Harris scored from inside to make it a three-point game. Scott then made 1 of 2 from the line with 32.8 seconds left, putting the Irish up four.
After Gray missed a 3-point attempt, Atkins came up with a loose ball, was fouled with 19.9 seconds left. He missed the first and sank the second for a five-point lead.
Gonzaga’s Mangisto Arop made a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to slice it to 79-77. Hansbrough then sank his free throws – the final two with about 3 seconds left- and Notre Dame held on.
Scott’s 19 points in the first half were two more than his previous high for an entire game and Notre Dame led 43-37.
But Gonzaga got a dunk from Robert Sacre and a steal from Marquise Carter that led to a basket on a goaltending call, tying the game at 50-50 five minutes into the second half.
Abromaitis then foiled the Bulldogs’ zone defense by sinking back-to-back 3-pointers, his third and fourth of the game. And after a Gonzaga turnover, he got loose on the baseline, took a nice pass from Tyrone Nash and dunked to put the Irish up by eight.
Minutes later, he hit a pair of free throws and then after a nice fake canned a jumper and Notre Dame’s lead went to 11 with under nine minutes remaining.