What turned out to be a very exciting game between Notre Dame and Providence merely served as a backdrop to a historic performance by the Friars senior swingman, Marshon Brooks. Brooks scored in every imaginable way – three point fallaways, dunks, kisses off the glass on drives that resulted in difficult angles, the full repertoire of his enormous offensive skillset. This is a player who can get anywhere he wants to go on a basketball court. Ultimately it just depends on whether the shot is falling.
Against Notre Dame, it was. And the Friars needed every point just to hang with the Irish. From the start, it was apparent that this Notre Dame team would give the Friars fits. Mike Brey's team controls the tempo, and runs precise sets within their offense that depend on great passing which often results in open looks, either from three or going to the hoop. There are elements of the old Princeton offense present, and Notre Dame carved PC's defense up in the first half.
Add to that a career shooting night by Tim Abromaitis (28 points on 11-16 shooting) and a career high 32 points from Ben Hansbrough (10-13 shooting), and the Irish shot nearly 60% against PC's overmatched defense. The bigger, stronger visitors also beat PC up on the backboards in the first half and jumped out to a 48-38 halftime lead. Only 17 first half points by Brooks kept the Friars within hailing distance.
Notre Dame built a 16 point lead early in the second half, at 55-39, as they continued to roll through PC's man to man defense for scores. Stops were rare as the Irish seemingly scored on nearly every possession. But every time Notre Dame threatened to pull away, Brooks answered – with threes, with drives for fouls, with baseline pops, as PC managed to stay with nine, ten, eleven points of the 9th-ranked Fighting Irish.
The game truly got interesting with about three and a half minutes to play. At that point, Notre Dame led 83-72, but the Friars – and Brooks – had one more big charge. A Vincent Council three pulled PC within eight, and Brooks followed with a short jumper and two free throws to cut the gap to four. Tyrone Nash and Hansbrough answered with free throws, but Council buried another big three and PC trailed 86-82 with 1:06 left.
Brooks hit on a driving bank shot and after a Eric Atkins free throw, Brooks knocked down two free throws with :34 remaining. Forced to foul, Hansbrough made both and Brooks drove the lane for a dunk with just :17 to play. Hansbrough made two more freebies for a 92-88 lead, but Brooks drove again for a lay-up. Now the Friars fouled freshman Atkins, who calmly swished both free throws with seven seconds left. Brooks rushed downcourt and knocked in an off balance three to cut the lead to 94-93 and PC fouled Abromaitis. When he missed the first free throw, he deliberately missed the second, and with just a second remaining, Brooks let go with a 75-foot heave that wasn't close.
In the final three and a half minutes, Brooks scored 15 of his 35 second half points. Every basket was critical and every one was contested. Given another minute of play or so, the result might very well have been different, but what saved Notre Dame was their free throw shooting down the stretch. And despite serious misgivings about PC's lack of structured offense and sieve-like defense, no one can say that this group of Friars doesn't play hard or without heart.
So what remains is put Brooks' performance in some kind of historical perspective. Consider that in the 32-year history of the Big East, among the countless number of great players to have played in the league, no one had ever scored 50 points in a game before. Brooks shot 20-28 (71%), 6-10 from three and 6-10 from the line. In fact, had he not uncharacteristically missed four free throws, his point total would have been even higher.
His point total of 52 tied the school record, set by Marvin Barnes against Austin Peay in the 1973-74 season.
His total broke the Big East single game record of 48, set by Eric Murdock against Pittsburgh back in 1990-91.
His 35 points in the second half broke the school record for points in a half, which was set by Jimmy Walker, with 32 in 1966-67.
He moved past Austin Croshere and John Thompson on the all-time Friar scoring list and now has 1,552 points with at least four games to play. Barring anything unforeseen, he will finish in PC's career Top 10.
He became just the 6th Friar to go over 700 points in a season and now has 711 points this year. Next up, Ernie DiGregorio's total of 761. Only Walker and Murdock have ever reached 800 points in a season. At his current average, Brooks will become just the third.
His 52 points pushed his season scoring average up a full point, to 25.4 ppg, second in the nation.
All that remains are wins. PC has four games remaining in order to avoid closing out the season on another losing streak. As much as the records mean to Brooks and company, they hunger for wins, and the next two opportunities will come on the road.
Record Breaking Night By Brooks Not Enough
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