What a grind

Notre Dame rallies, buries Seton Hall, 60-48 as Austin Carr is inducted into the program's Ring of Honor.

Scott Martin hit the biggest shot of his brief Irish career and Tim Abromaitis scored a game-high 22 points to help No. 9 Notre Dame hold off Seton Hall, 60-48.

With the Irish leading 51-46 and unable to shake the scrappy Pirates, Abromaitis drove the left baseline, drew a double team as the shot clock wound down, and calmly found Martin standing alone on the right wing. The senior from Valparaiso drained the lefty jumper to provide an eight-point cushion, 54-46 with just over three minutes remaining.

Seton Hall had built a suprising nine-point lead late in the first half as the Irish struggled to a 6 for 23 shooting effort over the game's first 19 minutes.

But a Notre Dame squad full of veterans responded with a 50-second flurry, including a Ben Hansbrough three-pointer, a defensive stop, and an Abromaitis buzzer beater from long range as the clock expired. A 27-18 deficit reached a more manageable 27-24 score at intermission.

"I think we had our worst first half of the year," noted Hansbrough. "Sometimes it's not about how you start; it's how you finish. We came out in the second half really focused, and it showed."

There was little aesthetic beauty to find in the second stanza, either, but the Irish continued their late-half momentum with a 13-3 run over the first 5:33 of the second to open up a 37-30 advantage. The hosts, however, would have to fight for breathing room for the duration of the contest as The Hall fought back to draw within one, 44-43 at the 7:15 mark and to 48-46 with under five minutes remaining.

The seasoned Irish responded with a Hansbrough three-point shot and the aforementioned dagger triple from Martin to put the visitors in scramble mode for the duration of the contest.

Martin then effectively concluded the proceedings with a Purcell Pavilion – and for everyone on press row and in the Irish locker room – first: a theft of the requisite rolling in-bounds pass designed to delay the start of the game clock.

"I can honestly say I've not seen anyone do that before," Martin exclaimed when asked about his sneaky steal post-game. "I don't know if he (Seton Hall guard Eniel Polynice) just misjudged how far away I was, or what. But I saw him look up at me, so I dove. I got lucky I got it."

Hansbrough was equally impressed with his teammate's clutch shot and ensuing deception.

"I thought Scott hit a big three then grabbed a huge loose ball…I've never seen that either," he said.

The Irish won their 12th Big East contest despite missing 60 percent of their field goals and committing more turnovers than assists. The errant-shooting Hall obliged with a 30 percent effort from the floor and a crucial 4:23 span of the second half in which they committed seven fouls, placing the Irish in the bonus for the final 14:27 of the contest.

Dignitaries abound

The Purcell Pavilion crowd included former greats David Rivers (1984-88) and Irish defensive back Luther Bradley (1973-77), both on hand to see the program's greatest player of all-time, Austin Carr, inducted into the school's Ring of Honor.

Carr – who was overcome with emotion in a pre-game press conference but fittingly calm under pressure on the basketball court for his acceptance speech – was also honored with the announcement that the basketball players' concourse, both men and women, will be renamed the Austin Carr Concourse, with the program's myriad greats adorning the walls hereafter.

"We had Austin in the locker room and I don't know if I've ever felt more pressure for one game," said head coach Mike Brey post-game. "(If) we bring him back to put him (in the Ring of Honor) I felt we better win this game or we'll never hear the end of it for the rest of my career."

The Irish ensured that victory with a stout defensive effort over the final 21 minutes.

"In the first half I didn't think we did enough tough stuff, and maybe that's because we missed our shots and we hung our heads a little," Brey offered.

"I thought we defended fabulously at key times to move our feet on drivers," Brey continued of the second half response. "Tim Abromaitis, to do what he did offensively (22 points) and chase (Jeremy) Hazell for 40 minutes…and then the play of the game was him diving on the floor to get us a three-pointer (in the second half). I thought he was fabulous tonight."

Hazell, who scored 35 points on a 12-16 shooting effort in a February upset of the Irish last season in Newark, scored just 14 points and hit 5 of 13 shots (1-7 from long range) Saturday in South Bend.

Seton Hall was led by senior Jeff Robinson's 16 points. Hansbrough scored 21 for the Irish while Carleton Scott added 8 points and 10 rebounds though he committed five turnovers in an uneven performance. Notre Dame out-rebounded the Pirates, 41-32.

"That's a great win for us," Brey continued. "Human nature is human nature through the course of five months. I'm proud of our group that we learned a lesson a little ‘inexpensively.'"

The Irish (23-5/12-4) can wrap-up a double bye in the upcoming conference tournament with a win Monday vs. No. 14 Villanova. Notre Dame trails conference leader Pittsburgh by 1.5 games with the Panthers traveling to Louisville tomorrow. Should the Panthers and Irish finish tied, Notre Dame would win the regular season crown due to a head-to-head victory over the No. 4-ranked Panthers.

Notre Dame closes its conference season next Saturday with a trip to Storrs to take on No. 15 UConn.

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