Editor’s note: Tom King is the owner and lead writer of Slap The Sign, a Notre Dame blog from the Fanside Network. Tom has agreed to help cover Fighting Irish Basketball for Subway Domer.
Football or basketball, it doesn’t matter– the Irish are winning with defense nowadays.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish stymied No.9 Georgetown’s Princeton offense Wednesday night at the Purcell Pavilion, holding the Hoyas to just 55 points on 42% shooting, opening Big East play with a 69-55 victory.
Tim Abromaitis sank five three-pointers on his way to a team-high 20 points, but it was the rugged defense that was most responsible for Notre Dame’s biggest win so far this season.
Georgetown came into the contest shooting a scorching 53% from the field, 43% from distance. The Irish limited Georgetown’s normally-devastating backdoor cuts, forcing the Hoyas to shoot contested shots from the perimeter, which were not falling. Georgetown made just four of its 22 three-pointers and senior guard Chris Wright was held to three points, more than 10 points below his season-average.
Points were hard to come by for both teams in the first half, but Abromaitis gave the Irish a 34-26 halftime cushion by sinking three first-half threes.
Notre Dame seized the momentum to start the second half, opening up a 16-point lead due, in large part, to the play of Scott Martin. Martin scored seven quick points and made perhaps a game-changing defensive play. Notre Dame led by nine points when Martin chased down a Hoya streaking alone to the hoop, deflecting the transition pass which would have resulted in a sure basket for Georgetown. Then, on the other end, Martin drilled a corner three-pointer to stretch the lead to 12 and ignite the crowd.
After Georgetown cut the 16-point lead to just 7 with 7 minutes to play, Abromaitis swished a huge corner three of his own. On the next possession, Ben Hansbrough curled off a screen and canned a fadeaway three-pointer with a defender’s hand in his face to put the Irish up 56-43, essentially icing the game.
Hansbrough scored 17 points, despite shooting just 3 of 11, because he made all 10 of his free throws. Tyrone Nash broke out of his recent funk to notch 15 points and 10 rebounds. Nash exhibited impressive footwork down low– most notably a spin-move, followed by an up-and-under with the right hand–frustrating Georgetown center Julian Vaughn into early foul trouble that plagued him throughout the game.
Austin Freeman led the Hoyas with 21 points, but he was ineffective in the first half and scored a good chunk of his points with the game already out of reach.
The Irish will have no time to celebrate the win, as they must prepare for a New Year’s Day trip to the Carrier Dome to take on No.5 Syracuse, followed by a return to South Bend to host No.4 Uconn. Three top-10 teams in seven days will be quite the test for an Irish team that relies on a seven-man rotation.
But, so far, so good.