#9 Notre Dame came out of the gates shooting red hot from behind the arc, and the initial surge set the evening’s tone. #14 Villanova was never able to catch their breath and catch up, as they spent pretty much the entire first twenty minutes with half as many points on the scoreboard as the Irish.
ND was especially fired up for their Senior night as they happen to start all seniors (Ben Hansbrough, Tim Abromaitis, Tyrone Nash, Carleton Scott, Scott Martin). Hansbrough got the biggest ovation of all, as the Purcell Pavilion crowd was extremely fired up all night. Interestingly, Scott, Martin and Abro all return a fifth and final year of eligibility next season.
And the Irish gave the Joyce Center crowd plenty of reason to ignite, as they hit their first five treys and shot 58% (11-19) from three in the first half. Nova, by contrast was just 2-10 from behind the arc, and therefore found themselves trailing 47-27 at halftime.
By Paul M. Banks
This Big East battle was never really much of a contest as the Wildcats’ issues guarding the perimeter surfaced once again. A very guard-heavy college basketball team, it’s pretty much essential that the ‘Cats win the points outside the paint advantage in a given night, otherwise they’re not likely to even be in the game.
The two Coreys (yes, exactly like Haim and Feldman- ok, not really but it’s funny to mention the two Coreys anyway) Fisher and Stokes came in averaging 30.7 ppg, and shooting about 43% combined. In the first half, the duo were just 1-11 from the floor, and they finished 11-25. Villanova’s third leading scorer, Maalik Wayns, also a guard, and the team’s third leading scorer had 11, while Fisher led the Cats with 22.
Nova stumbled down the stretch massively last season, but this year’s collapse is looking even worse. After starting the year 16-1, they’ve gone 5-8, and now find themselves 21-9, 9-8 in the Big East. They’re right in the middle of the crowded pack of BE teams that should make the NCAA Tournament, but have still squandered their opportunity for a favorable seed.
The Irish on the other hand, secured a double bye in the conference tourney, and have an outside chance of still catching Pittsburgh for the conference regular season title. A bunch of unlikely things need to happen, but there’s still a remote chance.
The Irish were led by the same duo who have set the pace all year long. Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis. Each had 30 points (first time since 2006 that ND had two 30-point scorers in the same game), and they combined to hit nine treys. Hansbrough shot a blistering 7-10 from three. He was also his usual “grindy” self. Getting plenty of floor burns, and even accidentally diving into one of the seated ND pom girls in the first half. And we would all hate to see anything bad happen to any of the very lovely Irish pom girls. Luckily, she did not appear injured.
Abro set a Joyce Center record with nine three-pointers. And he missed on just four attempts. ND’s 20 threes set a school record and tied a Big East record. Finally, “point center” Ty Nash also went out in style, securing a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards.
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 Cleveland.com and Chicagoland Sports Radio.com
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