Just one point kept the Irish ahead of Providence Wednesday night. The Providence Friars exploded in the second half, determined to take the win, but couldn’t get past the talent on Notre Dame.
Ben Hansbrough scored a career-high 32 points and Tim Abromaitis had a season-high 28 to lead No. 9 Notre Dame to a 94-93 win over struggling Providence on Wednesday night despite a Big East record 52 points by Marshon Brooks.
The Irish (22-5, 11-4 Big East) are off to their best start ever in the 11 seasons under coach Mike Brey. Notre Dame, in second place in the conference, has won eight of nine.
Brooks is only the third player in Providence history to score 40 points or more twice in a season and became the first to score 40 against the Irish since Danny Manning did it in 1987.
Providence (14-14, 3-12) has lost six of seven after beating then-No. 19 Louisville and No. 8 Villanova four days apart in late January.
The Irish, who led by 10 at halftime, pushed it to 55-39 on Abromaitis’ fourth 3-pointer 2 1/2 minutes into the second half. They maintained a double-digit advantage until the Friars closed to 72-64 on Duke Mondy’s 3 from the left corner with 9:22 to play.
Notre Dame, which lost 72-58 at West Virginia on Saturday, shot 58.2 percent from the floor, including 9 of 21 on 3-point attempts. The Irish won their eighth straight against the Friars.
Providence cut it to 74-67 on Brooks’ baseline jumper, but Hansbrough’s three-point play made it 79-68 with just over 7 minutes to go.
Brooks hit a spinning jumper from the right wing, making it 83-79 with just under 3 minutes left, but the Irish hit just enough from the line to hang.
Brooks’ two free throws cut it to 88-86, but Hansbrough hit two on the other end with 29 seconds to play. He made two more with 13 seconds left.
Notre Dame, which took control in the opening minutes, led 48-38 at halftime.
It started out as expected with Providence, which entered next to last in the conference in points allowed but second in scoring, setting the tone for a wide open, mostly defensive-free initial 20 minutes.
After the Friars had the initial two baskets of the game, the Irish – mainly behind Abromaitis’ quick start – made things look easy offensively. Notre Dame went on a 14-2 run over the next 3:21 with Abromaitis scoring 12 points.
Before he went to the bench for a rest midway into the first half, he scored 15 of Notre Dame’s first 18 points.
The Irish had three easy cuts to the basket for layups, hit four wide-open 3s and added a put-back en route to an 8 of 11 start from the field. They pushed their lead to 31-18 with 10:12 still to play in the opening half before the Friars started to play a bit tighter defensively.
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