Is Notre Dame the Best Men's Basketball Team in the Big East?

otis criblecoblisContributor IMarch 1, 2011

ND's Ben Hansbrough & Tim Abromaitis scored 30 points each vs. Villanova
ND's Ben Hansbrough & Tim Abromaitis scored 30 points each vs. VillanovaJim McIsaac/Getty Images

"I was telling Abro,” Irish guard Ben Hansbrough (and fellow bro) said after Notre Dame’s destruction of No. 19 Villanova Monday night, “'Did you know we hit 16 threes, combined?'

"He was like, 'What?"' said Hansbrough, who had 30 points, 10 assists and five steals.

Tim Abromaitis hit a career-high nine three-pointers, matching Hansbrough’s net-scorching 30 points, as the seventh-ranked Irish routed No. 19 Villanova 93-72 on Monday night.

Abromaitis' nine three-pointers were one shy of the school record set by Kyle McAlarney against North Carolina in 2008.

Abromaitis and Hanbrough became the first Irish players to score 30 or more points in the same contest since Chris Quinn (34) and Colin Falls (32) did so against Seton Hall on Feb. 18, 2006.

"Obviously we shot it good, but we got good shots," ND Coach Mike Brey said.

"I don't think they (Villanova) really focused on shooters like some other teams do. Earlier in the year, I think I would have paid good money to get a couple of those looks," Abromaitis said. "I think I surprised myself getting that open."

"There was nothing we could really do," said Corey Fisher, the Wildcats’ leading scorer said of the three-point barrage.

"We tried to put pressure on them to speed the game up. They like to run the shot clock down, get Hansbrough on some ball screens, play hard and they kept hitting big shots."

Fisher led Villanova (21-9, 9-8) with 22 points, 17 in the second half.

Of  Hanbrough, Villanova coach Jay Wright said, "We've seen a lot of great players this year so far. After that performance, I'd say he's the best I've seen now."

What do you think: Ben Hanbrough for Big East Player of the Year?

Notre Dame (24-5, 13-4) finished 20-for-32 on three-pointers (62.5 percent), which tied the Big East record for threes. The Irish, shooting 37.7 percent from three-point range this season, were 11 for 19 in the first half, including 4-of-6 from Hansbrough, to build a 47-27 lead. The Irish led by as many as 25 points in the first half and 32 in the second, and the home crowd went wild as they made one open three-pointer after another.

The victory ensured a double bye in the Big East tournament for Notre Dame and wrapped up a 17-0 season at home, the only Big East team to go unbeaten on its home court this season.

The Irish can win the regular season Big East championship if they beat UConn Saturday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2 TV, ND Radio Network), and Pittsburgh loses one of its final two contests (Wednesday at South Florida; Saturday at home against Villanova).

In that scenario, the Irish and Pitt would tie with 14-4 conference records, but Notre Dame would earn the title based on their win over the fourth-ranked Panthers on January 24.

The jury’s still out, but the Irish have made a compelling case for being the best team in the Big East.

Who would’ve thunk it?



B O X  S C O R E

No. 7 NOTRE DAME 93, No. 19 VILLANOVA 72

VILLANOVA (72): Antonio Pena 6-8 0-0 12, Mouphtaou Yarou 2-3 0-0 4, Maalik Wayns 4-11 2-4 11, Corey Fisher 8-17 3-4 22, Corey Stokes 3-8 0-1 9, Russell Wooten 0-0 0-0 0, Dominic Cheek 2-7 0-0 6, James Bell 2-5 0-0 6, Isaiah Armwood 1-1 0-0 2.

TOTALS: 28-60 5-9 72.

NOTRE DAME (93): Tyrone Nash 3-4 5-6 11, Tim Abromaitis 10-17 1-2 30, Carleton Scott 4-12 0-0 10, Scott Martin 2-5 0-0 5, Ben Hansbrough 8-12 7-7 30, Eric Atkins 1-1 2-3 5, Tom Kopko 1-1 0-0 2, Alex Dragicevich 0-0 0-2 0, Tom Knight 0-0 0-0 0, Joey Brooks 0-0 0-0 0, Jack Cooley 0-0 0-0 0.

TOTALS: 29-52 15-20 93.

Halftime score: Notre Dame 47, Villanova 27. 3-point goals: Villanova 11-26 (Stokes 3-6, Fisher 3-8, Bell 2-5, Cheek 2-5, Wayns 1-2), Notre Dame 20-32 (Abromaitis 9-13, Hansbrough 7-10, Scott 2-6, Atkins 1-1, Martin 1-2). Total fouls: Villanova 18, Notre Dame 15. Shooting: Villanova 28-of-60 (46.7 percent), Notre Dame 29-of-52 (55.8 percent). Rebounds: Villanova 26 (Pena 5), Notre Dame 34 (Nash 11). Assists: Villanova 18 (Wayns 8), Notre Dame 23 (Hansbrough 10). Turnovers: Villanova 9, Notre Dame 10. Records: Villanova 21-9 (9-8), Notre Dame 24-5 (13-4).