Irish Rewind: 'Amazing' road win keeps NCAA tournament hopes alive for Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

WASHINGTON — Time was about to expire on one fun afternoon of work for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team when guard Ben Hansbrough raised his right hand and called for teammate Tim Abromaitis.

The two Irish made eye contact, then raced toward the big “G” in the center of the Verizon Center court to exchange a chest bump as the horn sounded on Notre Dame’s 78-64 victory Saturday over No. 11 Georgetown.

There was plenty for the Irish to celebrate after beating the Hoyas on their home court for the first time since 2003, a win that also was Notre Dame’s second over a Top 12 team in the last four days. It was the first time Notre Dame beat a ranked team on the road since a Jan. 26, 2008 victory over then-No. 18 Villanova. It also was the first time since December 2002 that Notre Dame has registered consecutive victories over ranked teams.

It also was coach Mike Brey's 100th career Big East win during his 10-year Irish tenure. He is the sixth coach in league history to hit that milestone.

"It means I'm getting old," Brey joked afterward. "It's a great win for us. I'm really proud of this group since we lost Luke Harangody. We've really played like heck."

Hansbrough, who started the second half as if he gulped rocket fuel at intermission, scored a game-high 21 points. Abromaitis, who had trouble finding the touch on his jumper but kept figuring out other ways to score, added 19. And junior Carleton Scott, seemingly coming of age after seeing his collegiate career nearly come apart earlier this season, added a career-high 17. All of it was enough to offset a fourth consecutive game without an injured Harangody and bump Notre Dame's record to 19-10 overall, 8-8 in the Big East.

Greg Monroe scored 15 points for Georgetown, which falls to 19-8, 9-7.

"To say today is disappointing would be an understatement," said coach John Thompson III. "It's extremely disappointing. Notre Dame played extremely well."

The Hoyas started a different five for the first time all season when leading scorer Austin Freeman was forced to come off the bench because of the stomach flu. Freeman, who needed an IV before and after the game, had five points in 23 minutes.

"It was even, 'cause we didn't have 'Gody," Brey said. "After what we've been through, I'm a firm believer in survival of the fittest in this very cruel league."

Staying together and staying poised and patient and together again a little more helped the Irish sail out of town with a victory. Having led for nearly the entire game - Georgetown enjoyed a lead for all of 1:39 in the first half - the Irish had their 12-point lead shaved to four following an 8-0 Georgetown run with 8:40 remaining.

Many Irish faithful might have been thinking, 'Here we go again, another collapse for Notre Dame,' just like during stops at Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall and most recently, Louisville, where the Irish once led by seven points in overtime before falling in double overtime. But this Irish team simply refused to fold, refused to get flustered and continued with its patient offensive plan to massage the shot clock and burn the opposition by getting good stuff from different guys.

Up four, the Irish lead jumped to seven after Tory Jackson delivered what he considered the day's dagger - a 3-pointer from the wing with the shot clock set to expire. Scott followed with a big 3 of his own to push the Irish up eight. Hansbrough got in on the act with a 3, and then delivered a steal at midcourt, a big-time drive, a hoop and a foul shot. And when Abromaitis hit three free throws after being fouled on a 3 attempt in front of the Irish bench, a 15-3 run was complete and the Irish were back up 16.

Ballgame, essentially, over.

"We just took turns," Hansbrough said of delivering big plays. "This team is just really coming together. We responded to adversity.

"We just have guys who really know how to step up at times."

Brey credited his defense for helping win this one. The Irish were pretty good on that end of the floor, especially when they needed a stop or a limiting of looks. They won the rebounding battle, 29-20 and limited Georgetown to eight offensive rebounds. But Notre Dame's methodical "burn" offense was a beauty. The Irish scored 47 points and shot a sizzling 71.4 percent (15-of-21) in the second half. Each time the Hoyas thought about a comeback, Notre Dame closed the door. Methodically. Emphatically. Decidedly.

"Amazing," said Jackson. "It was just unselfish basketball today."

And a fun one.

NOTRE DAME 78, No. 11 GEORGETOWN 64

At Washington

NOTRE DAME (19-10): Ty Nash 2-3 4-5 8, Tory Jackson 3-7 2-4 9, Tim Abromaitis 7-19 4-4 19, Ben Hansbrough 7-10 4-5 21, Carleton Scott 7-8 0-0 17, Jonathan Peoples 0-0 0-0 0, Jack Cooley 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 28-49 14-18 78.

GEORGETOWN (19-8): Hollis Thompson 5-7 0-1 12, Christ Wright 4-12 0-1 10, Greg Monroe 4-7 7-8 15, Jason Clark 4-7 0-0 12, Julian Vaughn 4-6 0-0 8, Vee Sanford 0-0 2-2 2, Austin Freeman 2-5 1-2 5, Jerrelle Benimon 0-1 0-0 0, Henry Sims 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-45 10-14 64.

Halftime - Notre Dame 31-27. 3-Point Goals - Notre Dame 8-22 (Scott 3-4, Hansbrough 3-5, Jackson 1-4, Abromaitis 1-9), Georgetown 8-18 (Clark 4-7, Wright 2-4, Thompson 2-4, Benimon 0-1, Freeman 0-2). Fouled Out - None. Rebounds - Notre Dame 29 (Scott 9), Georgetown 20 (Clark 5). Assists - Notre Dame 16 (Hansbrough 4), Georgetown 15 (Wright 6). Total Fouls - Notre Dame 13, Georgetown 14. A - 15,992.

Each week during the college basketball season, NDI looks back at a memorable Irish game with a reprint of the story that appeared in the South Bend Tribune.

This week's Irish Rewind rolls back to the 2009-10 season not long after Notre Dame lost leading scorer, leading rebounder, leading double-double machine Luke Harangody with a bone bruise to his right knee. The Irish chances at an NCAA tournament bid were supposed to take a serious hit, but then the Irish got serious.

Notre Dame rolled out four-straight Big East wins to end the regular season. This one at No. 11 Georgetown was No. 2.

This story appeared in the Feb. 28, 2010 edition of the Tribune.

If you have a suggestion for Irish Rewind, send it to tnoie@ndinsider.com.