Hansbrough, Notre Dame advance past Akron

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Hansbrough, Notre Dame advance past Akron

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted 3:31 p.m. Updated 5:27 p.m.Associated Press

CHICAGO - Notre Dame's pace was off. The Irish were overanxious at the beginning of their NCAA opener, knowing that as a second seed they were expected to win against Akron.

Leading the scrappy Zips by four at the break, the Irish scored the first nine of the second half to build a more comfortable lead and then held on for a 69-56 victory Friday in the second round of the Southwest Regional.

"It took us a long time to kind of calm down. I'm glad the halftime was 20 minutes because we needed all of it just to kind of ratchet our blood pressure down a little bit," coach Mike Brey said.

"We were better in the second half because our tempo was better."

Ben Hansbrough, whom Brey said was playing too fast in the first 20 minutes, finished with 15 points. Tim Abromaitis added 14, Scott Martin pitched in 9 of his 11 points in the second half and Carleton Scott tied his high with 14 rebounds.

Next up for the Irish (27-6) is Florida State (22-10), after the Seminoles defeated Texas A&M, 57-50.

Martin - a transfer from Purdue who sat out two seasons, one after blowing out his knee - was a key in the second half, scoring six early points and getting the Irish on track.

"I think the great thing about it is that we played bad in the first half and we got better," Martin said. "Something we can take away from it is that we improved in the game and now we're back to where we should be and hopefully it will continue from here."

Hansbrough, the Big East Player of the Year who shot just 3-for-16 in a loss to Louisville in the semifinals of the conference tourney, was just 4-of-11 from the field but was 6-for-6 from the line and had six assists.

"I thought he forced plays at times in the first half. In the second half, his decision making was excellent, and it helped us flow," Brey said.

The 15th-seeded Zips (23-13) were appearing in just their third NCAA Division I tournament and second in three years. Entering the game, they'd won 11 of their previous 13, beating Kent State in the Mid-American Conference tournament to get into the tournament.

Their defense played Notre Dame's motion offense tough, especially with 7-footer Zeke Marshall there to block four shots and change the trajectory of numerous others.

"We fought back. We just couldn't put enough baskets together on a continuous basis to win," Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. "That's what a mid-major has to do to beat a high major with a seed that high is you have to shoot the ball better than that, really.

"We felt like we got good shots even from the outside that just didn't go in for us tonight. We thought we could score on them, but we just didn't. I thought it was going to be a bigger challenge to guard them, and we actually did a decent job."

Quincy Diggs led Akron with 11 points. The Zips shot only 35.9 percent and Marshall was just 2-for-13 from the floor.

"I had four 2-foot layups I missed in the early part of the game. I don't really recall that it was their defense that caused me to miss. It was just me missing," said Marshall, who also couldn't get a dunk to go down.

The Irish had a huge advantage at the foul line, shooting 20-for-26 to just 3-for-6 for the Zips.

With Notre Dame up 34-30 at the half, Tyrone Nash's three-point play and Martin's jumper got the Irish off to a quick start. A middle-of-the-lane jumper by Scott and another basket by Martin put the Irish up 43-30 as Akron missed its first eight shots of the half.

The Zips later ran off seven straight points to get back in it. They stayed within five when Marshall - 1-for-11 from the field at that point - dropped in a basket off an inbound pass with just more than 10 minutes to go.

Abromaitis, who got off only two shots in the first half, then sank his second 3-pointer and Scott hit a jumper from the baseline, was fouled and converted a three-point play for a 55-44 lead.

"I think with Abromaitis, he is a pretty steady guy," Brey said. "You just let him play. Those were two big shots he hit. We needed key buckets there."

Box Score

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Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

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AP

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

PITTSBURGH – There are certain trends through which the Blackhawks tend to go sometimes. They can be so-so against teams on the bubble or out of the postseason. But face a playoff-bound team and the Blackhawks usually come with a top-notch game.

Exhibit A on that came on Wednesday.

Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane each had two-point nights, and Marian Hossa scored his 25th of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Penguins 5-1 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks snapped a three-game winless streak and now have a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild in the West.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots. Richard Panik scored his 22nd goal of the season. Bryan Rust had the Penguins' lone goal at 5:46 of the third.

The Penguins, much like the Blackhawks, entered this one with 103 points. The Penguins were without several injured players, including Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Trevor Daley. Still, it's the Penguins, and you can never take them lightly.

[Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

The Blackhawks got the early lead, then really pounced in the final five-plus minutes of the first period. The Blackhawks got stellar set-up passes from Patrick Kane, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz and finishes to accompany them. Two of their goals (Marcus Kruger and Hossa) came in the final minute of the first period for that 4-0 lead.

The Penguins had the first six shots of the third but the Blackhawks would score on their first of the period when Tanner Kero, taking the turnover from Justin Schultz, finished on a breakaway.

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

As far as first impressions go, Bastian Schweinsteiger made a good one on Wednesday.

The Chicago Fire's new German star smiled at every opportunity, said all the right things about playing hard and wanting to fit in with his new team and even elegantly danced around some 'tricky' questions.

Schweinsteiger opened by thanking fans for showing up to greet him at O'Hare on Tuesday and later said he has plenty left to give on the field.

"I'm 32 years old, I'm ready," Schweinsteiger said. "Of course I need more training sessions to have the right rhythm where I want to see myself. I want to use every minute to feel how it is, how the teammates are playing, which kind of runs they make, which kind of rhythm they have. So to know each other better, that is very important for me step-by-step and I hope you will get results soon because I don't like to lose or to draw."

The German's addition is a big deal to the Fire because he is a big name player who is drawing more attention to the team. That means the Fire will have to win more to capitalize and show the team is deserving of the extra attention.

Despite that extra attention, words of adoration from general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic saying he "can be the icon of the MLS in the future," Schweinsteiger said he is ready for the attention, but does not want to stand apart from his teammates.

"I had a lot of pressure in my career," Schweinsteiger said. "When you play a World Cup final or a Champions League final and the third time you have to win against Borussia Dortmund there is a lot of pressure on your shoulders so I can handle that. I don't want to say I'm a key player of Chicago Fire. Every player on the pitch has to be a key player and has to take the responsibility on the pitch and I would like just to get comfortable with myself and into the team so much as I can."

Talking about the importance of winning and showing humility? Check.

[Watch or listen to Bastian Schweinsteiger's full press conference here]

As for some of those 'tricky' questions, he was able to stay clean there as well. Will you root for the Cubs or Sox?

"First of all I like the Fire the most, of course," Schweinsteiger said.

Well played, Bastian.

But what about this one: Is the World Cup a realistic expectation for the Fire?

Sorry, what was that? Schweinsteiger smiled politely, said he didn't understand the question and avoided getting egg on his face while the Internet exploded in laughter that he was asked about the chances a club team winning an international competition.

Schweinsteiger is the new face of the Fire and that face smiled, waved and shook hands on Wednesday amid all the pageantry.

Media savvy? Check.

As for how he will perform on the field, that's to come soon. Paunovic only gave a subtle hint as to whether Schweinsteiger will play in Saturday's home match against Montreal.

"Obviously he is going to be available," Paunovic said. "We are not going to reveal our plans here, but we still have a talk to have and discuss how he feels and more things about the team and how we want to play. Be ready, just be ready. We'll see."