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Archive for Friday, March 18, 2011

Hansbrough, Irish beat Akron in NCAA opener

Notre Dame defenders Ben Hansbrough, center left, and Tyrone Nash (1) cover Akron's Zeke Marshall (44) on an in bounds pass in the second half of a second-round NCAA Southwest Regional tournament college basketball game in Chicago, Friday, March 18, 2011. At left is Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis. Notre Dame won 69-56.

Notre Dame defenders Ben Hansbrough, center left, and Tyrone Nash (1) cover Akron's Zeke Marshall (44) on an in bounds pass in the second half of a second-round NCAA Southwest Regional tournament college basketball game in Chicago, Friday, March 18, 2011. At left is Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis. Notre Dame won 69-56.

March 18, 2011

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— Ben Hansbrough scored 15 points despite another sub-par shooting game and Tim Abromaitis added 14 as second-seeded Notre Dame fought off scrappy Akron for a 69-56 second-round victory Friday in the Southwest Regional.

Notre Dame (27-6) will meet the winner of Florida State-Texas A&M on Sunday at the United Center.

The Irish led 34-30 at the half before scoring the first nine points of the second to build their lead to double digits and then held off the cold-shooting Zips.

Hansbrough, the Big East Player of the Year who shot just 3-for-16 in a loss to Louisville in the semifinals of the conference tourney, hit just 4-of-11 from the field but was 6-for-6 from the line and had six assists.

The 15th-seeded Zips (23-13) were appearing in just their third NCAA Division I tournament and second in three years. Entering the game, they'd won 11 of their previous 13, beating Kent State in the Mid-American Conference tournament to get into the tournament.

Quincy Diggs led Akron with 11 points. The Zips shot only 35.9 percent and 7-foot center Zeke Marshall was just 2-for-13 from the floor.

The Irish had a huge advantage at the foul line, shooting 20-for-26 to just 3-for-6 for the Zips.

With Notre Dame up by four at the half, Tyrone Nash's three-point play and Scott Martin's jumper got the Irish off to a quick second-half start. A middle-of-the-lane jumper by Carleton Scott and another basket by Martin put the Irish up 43-30 as Akron missed its first eight shots of the half.

Darryl Roberts finally connected on a 3-pointer for the Zips after they'd gone scoreless in the first 5:20 of the second half, but now the deficit they'd worked down to four at halftime was a big one again and it went back to 12 when Martin hit another jumper. Martin scored 9 of his 11 in the second half for the Irish.

But the Zips ran off seven straight points and stayed within five when Marshall — 1-for-11 from the field at that point — dropped in a basket off an inbounds pass with just more than 10 minutes to go.

Abromaitis then sank a 3-pointer and Scott hit a jumper from the baseline, was fouled and converted a three-point play for a 55-44 lead.

In the first half, Hansbrough started a 10-0 spurt with a jumper and capped it with a 3-pointer that gave the Irish a 16-6 lead against the slow-starting Zips.

Akron misfired on 11 of its first 13 field goal attempts and 7-foot Zeke Marshall was 0-for-6 early, including a missed slam dunk attempt.

With Akron clamping down as Hansbrough tried to drive, he twice kicked out to freshman guard Eric Atkins, who hit a pair of 3-pointers.

Akron worked the deficit to five when Diggs hit a 3-pointer but Scott answered with a long one from NBA range and Hansbrough drove for a layup after a steal by Martin and the lead went right back to 10.

But the Zips kept scrapping, playing tough defense and when Alex Abreu hit a 3-pointer Akron was right there, trailing 34-30 with about a minute and a half left in the half.

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