Notre Dame’s opening week of Big East play looks like this: Georgetown, at Syracuse, Uconn. That’s three top-10 teams in seven days. That’s a more difficult stretch than Upward Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose.
So far, so good. The Irish shut down Georgetown’s polished Princeton offense at Purcell Pavillion with a rugged defense that is quickly becoming familiar around South Bend, en route to a convincing 69-55 victory.
Georgetown came into Wednesday night’s Big East opener ranked ninth and sporting an impressive 11-1 record. The Hoyas were shooting 53% from the field and 43% from long-range. A combination of in-your-shorts defense and a cold shooting night for the Hoyas led to the Hoyas shooting just 42% and making only 4 of their 22 three-point attempts.
Here were the key plays, players, and factors that led to the Irish’s biggest win to date:
- Abromaitis made 5 three-pointers on his way to a team-high 20 points. The most important came with just under 7 minutes to play when Abro swished a corner three to put the Irish back up by 10, 53-43. Prior to Abro’s three, Georgetown seemed to be gaining some momentum, cutting a 16-point lead down to 7.
- On the following possession, Ben Hansbrough nailed a contested three-pointer to stretch the lead to 13 and all but ice the game. Hansbrough shot poorly (3-11), but he sunk all 10 of his free throws, including four in the final minute and change.
- Tyrone Nash emerged from a mini-slump to notch an impressive double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds). I have previously criticized Nash for relying too much on his spin move to the left, which he did early in the game. Georgetown clearly had scouted Nash and knew his tendencies, resulting in a couple of Nash’s shots being blocked. Nash adjusted beautifully, however, countering his spin-move with an up-and-under move and another fake-spin, right-handed baby-hook. Nash made Julian Vaughn look silly a few times with his counter moves, and put Vaughn in foul trouble all night.
- Notre Dame led by eight points at the half and quickly stretched the lead to 16 behind the play of Scott Martin. Martin scored seven points in the early part of the second half, while also making an incredible defensive play. The Hoyas had secured a rebound and threw the ball ahead to what appeared to be an open man on the fast break. Martin never stopped hustling back, however, and he was able to tip the pass, breaking up an easy layup. Martin then nailed a three-pointer on the other end to put the Irish up 12.
- Senior Hoyas guard Chris Wright was held to just three points on 1-9 field goals. He also committed four turnovers. Hoyas leading scorer Austin Freeman managed 21 points, but he had a dismal first half, and a lot of those points came with the game out of reach.
- Notre Dame won despite just two points coming from the bench. Eric Atkins was scoreless in 19 minutes of play, while Jack Cooley scored a layup in his five minutes of action. Brey is going to need to get more production from his bench if he expects to survive the rigors of Big East play. Cooley has played well in his short service and has earned extended playing time. We haven’t seen enough of any other reserve to assess their value, but Brey needs to play at least eight guys consistent minutes if he wants to keep his starters fresh.