Notre Dame Beats Akron in Atypical #2 vs. #15 Game

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Ben Hansbrough

It wasn’t a typical #15 vs. #2 NCAA Tournament game, but that’s what college basketball is all about. Especially this time of year. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won by double digits, 69-56, but they didn’t win by the margin Vegas expected them to.

And it wasn’t easy. They were never to able to get ahead by more than 16, and the Akron Zips cut it to five on two occasions late in the second half.

“It took us a long time to get away from them because they’re old, they’re smart, and they play well defensively, ” Irish Coach Mike Brey said.

“I think we can still use tape as a teaching tool.”

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There are plenty of mistakes to learn from, as the Irish committed a very uncharacteristic 14 turnovers, while turning Akron over just 8 times.

The Irish are third in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, and 13th in fewest turnovers. But they struggled out of the gate, missing a couple chippies and cheapies and were noticeably amped up and probably a bit uptight in the first half. They led by just four at recess.

However, Mike Brey was able to make some necessary adjustments at halftime.

“It was just a little bit of slowdown and listen to me. This group has taken ownership of itself to the ultimate level, and sometimes they don’t have all the answers, and I told ’em that. You don’t have all the answers, I got the answers, and I guess they listened to me for one more game, but they’ve been listening to me for a long time,” Brey said.

“I think the key was they didn’t get rolling from behind the arc,” we could live with some twos and some drives,” Brey continued. Akron finished just 7-21 from behind the arc.

Ben Hansbrough led the team with 15 points, but missed his only two field goal attempts in the second half. He scored 11 of his points in the first 20 minutes. Tim Abromaitis picked up the slack as he had 8 of his 14 in the second half. He hit a couple huge treys down the stretch to keep the Zips at bay.

Akron’s Zeke Marshall is probably going to get drafted by the NBA. Just because he’s seven feet tall, but he looked bad today, going just 2-13 from the floor with 6 boards.

“He changed some shots, he’s one long guy, I don’t think we played against anyone like that in the Big East,” Brey said of defending Marshall.

The Irish clinched the win with great efforts by both Scotts in the second half. Scott Martin and Carleton Scott were big, as Carleton put up 14 rebounds and 8 points. And Martin had 11 points and 6 boards.

The Irish improved to 3-1 all-time at the United Center and 3-0 all time versus Akron.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

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