Feb. 23, 2011
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Notre Dame appeared to be in total control, then all of a sudden the Fighting Irish were lucky time ran out on Marshon Brooks.
Ben Hansbrough scored a career-high 32 points and Tim Abromaitis had a season-high 28 as No. 9 Notre Dame hung on for a 94-93 win over struggling Providence on Wednesday night despite a Big East-record 52 points by Brooks.
The Irish (22-5, 11-4 Big East) are off to their best start ever in 11 seasons under coach Mike Brey. Notre Dame, in second place in the conference, has won eight of nine.
“I’m thrilled that we escaped with a win,” Brey said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a performance like that by a young man. That was outstanding.”
And, he likely hadn’t.
Brooks’ 52 points was the most ever scored against Notre Dame, which hadn’t allowed a 40-point scorer since Danny Manning in 1987. Brooks, only the third player in Providence history to score 40 points or more twice in a season, surpassed the previous high of 45 by Michigan State’s Julius McCoy on Dec. 21, 1955.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet. When I get home and sit down it will. Fifty-two against Notre Dame is a nice game,” Brooks said. “I was feeling it. It was going to be tough to stop me.”
The Irish had opened an 81-70 lead on Tyrone’s Nash’s layup with just under 6 minutes to play. Then, Brooks started an incredible run to cap his 35-point second half.
He scored 15 of his points in the closing 2:57, narrowing the deficit to two points on three occasions and to the final margin with a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left.
“It was like, ‘Did he just hit that shot? Did he just hit that shot?”‘ Hansbrough said. “I think we were a lot more poised, especially against one of the best performances ever.”
Providence (14-14, 3-12) has lost six of seven after beating then-No. 19 Louisville and No. 8 Villanova four days apart in late January.
“Marshon Brooks was able to make the right plays – not just scoring, but make the right passes,” Friars coach Keno Davis said. “I feel like he was pretty unselfish, I don’t know. But it’s a special player. He can score in so many ways.”
Brooks added five rebounds and four assists to his record-setting night.
The Irish, who led by 10 at halftime, pushed it to 55-39 on Abromaitis’ fourth 3-pointer 2 1/2 minutes into the second half. They maintained a double-digit advantage until the Friars closed to 72-64 on Duke Mondy’s 3 from the left corner with 9:22 to play.
Notre Dame, which lost 72-58 at West Virginia on Saturday, shot 58.2 percent, including 9 of 21 on 3-point attempts. The Irish won their eighth straight against the Friars.
Providence cut it to 74-67 on Brooks’ baseline jumper, but Hansbrough’s three-point play made it 79-68 with just over 7 minutes to go.
“Providence had to chase us, and they’re really good at chasing people down. I was really worried coming into here,” Brey said. “We shot it a little quick a couple times in the last eight minutes. That played into their hands. I didn’t want the ball back in Brooks’s hands that many times.”
Brooks hit a spinning jumper from the right wing, making it 83-79 with just under 3 minutes left, but the Irish hit just enough from the line to hang.
Brooks’ two free throws cut it to 88-86, but Hansbrough hit two on the other end with 29 seconds to play. He made two more with 13 seconds left.
Notre Dame, which took control in the opening minutes, led 48-38 at halftime.
It started out as expected with Providence, which entered next to last in the conference in points allowed but second in scoring, setting the tone for a wide open, mostly defensive-free initial 20 minutes.
After the Friars had the initial two baskets of the game, the Irish – mainly behind Abromaitis’ quick start – made things look easy offensively. Notre Dame went on a 14-2 run over the next 3:21 with Abromaitis scoring 12 points.
Before he went to the bench for a rest midway into the first half, he scored 15 of Notre Dame’s first 18 points.
The Irish had three easy cuts to the basket for layups, hit four wide-open 3s and added a put-back en route to an 8 of 11 start from the field. They pushed their lead to 31-18 with 10:12 still to play in the opening half before the Friars started to play a bit tighter defensively.