ND hoops passes first conference test

In the Big East opener for both programs, Notre Dame stifled the Hoyas and performed solidly in all phases of the game.

Notre Dame used stingy defense and timely outside shooting to pull away from Georgetown 69-55 in an important first conference matchup for the Irish, making a statement in a big way as a challenging part of the schedule begins.

Notre Dame, ranked 16th, began a stretch of three games against top-10 opponents with Wednesday night's contest against visiting No. 9 Georgetown. The Irish travel to face fifth-ranked Syracuse on Jan. 1, and host No. 4 UConn on Jan. 4.

Tim Abromaitis scored 20 points, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range, to pace the 12-1 Irish. Ben Hansbrough scored 17, Tyrone Nash had 15, and Scott Martin added 11.

"We had a lot of respect for Georgetown, but I thought we imposed our will," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "Getting to the foul line. That's what we've been doing this year."

Notre Dame made 22-of-27 free throws, hitting 15 in a row at one point, compared to 5-of-9 for Georgetown.

Among the critical factors in the victory were rebounding and perimeter defense. Nash led the Irish with 10 rebounds as the home team took a 25-33 edge on the boards in a physical contest that included 19 first-half foul calls.

"I like the physical game," Nash said. "That's why I came to the Big East. We have to be ready for it every day. We just had to gang rebound. That was really important to us."

Notre Dame held Georgetown to a disastrous 4-of-22 from 3-point range.

Despite going nearly eight minutes without a field goal during a stretch in the first half, Notre Dame built a lead through solid defense and free throw shooting. After missing three of four from the charity stripe to start the game, the Irish made 10 straight free throws.

An 8-0 run put the Irish ahead 21-13 midway through the first half. Georgetown cut the advantage to four on a basket by Henry Sims, but a putback from Tyrone Nash and a short jumper with time running out by Scott Martin gave Notre Dame a 34-26 halftime lead.

A 14-2 run early in the second half provided a cushion that carried Notre Dame over the Hoyas (11-2) most of the rest of the way. Georgetown did cut the lead to 50-43 with 7:30 to play, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Abromaitis and Hansbrough helped the Irish regain momentum.

"Abro is a veteran guy," Brey said. "He senses the moment when we need a dagger-type shot. He's been doing it for a while now."

Georgetown guard Austin Freeman led all scorers with 21 points, mostly working inside on a series of drives. He was the only double-digit scorer for the Hoyas.

In a major-league matchup, Notre Dame's players didn't seem to mind the change in atmosphere without the usual boisterous student section and accompanying hoopla.

With the students out on break, Notre Dame got a loud reaction from the crowd early in the decisive second-half run after 3-pointers by Abromaitis and Martin.

"That was amazing, really feeding off the crowd," Nash said. "The whole town of South Bend was happy tonight."

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