NCAA Hoops: Hansbrough leads No. 9 Notre Dame

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NCAA Hoops: Hansbrough leads No. 9 Notre Dame

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011
2:44 p.m.

Associated Press
SOUTH BEND, Ind. Ben Hansbrough for Big East player of the year? How about national player of the year, an award his brother won two seasons ago?

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey started the drums beating for his team's emotional leader after Hansbrough scored 25 points despite a tough start to lead No. 9 Notre Dame to a 76-69 win over Rutgers on Sunday.

"When you step back a bit, look at this, and get away from the preseason hype machine, certainly he is a Big East player of the pear candidate as well as national player of the year," Brey said. "Flat out. I mean, we are in the Top Ten and he has driven us into that position and we are in the hunt for the league title. It is starting to be really evaluated. Some people say 'Let's see what he does next game.' Well, he did it again."

After a slow start, Hansbrough took the game over. At one point he was 2 of 8 from the field, including 1 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line, but he used his drive-the-paint style to draw fouls and ended up making 11 of 13 free throws in a game that saw Notre Dame score only twice from the field in the last 8 minutes.

Hansbrough blamed part of his slow start on the early starting time.

"I think that was part of it, a Sunday game at noon," said the younger brother of Tyler Hansbrough who was chosen national player of the year for leading North Carolina to the national championship in 2009. "But you always have to be ready to play, and I don't think we were completely ready to play at the very beginning. We weren't ready to slide our feet and Coach Brey got on us a little bit."

Rutgers coach Mike Rice didn't put up much of an argument with Hansbrough receiving some honors.

"Hansbrough?" he questioned. "He just took the ball and manhandled us."

Jonathan Mitchell, who led Rutgers with 24 points, said Hansbrough "does a great job of using his body and using your weight against you to create fouls. Notre Dame did a great job of attacking us."

The Irish (19-4, 8-3) reclaimed sole possession of second place in the Big East behind No. 4 Pittsburgh and will host No. 15 Louisville on Wednesday.

Scott Martin had 14 points for Notre Dame and Tim Abromaitis added 10.

Jonathan Mitchell scored 24 points for Rutgers (12-11, 3-8) while Dane Miller added 11.

Rice wasn't about to argue about a big discrepancy between teams at the free throw line. Notre Dame was 27 of 34 the Scarlet Knights were only 8 of 12.

"You don't do anything with the referees in the Big East," he said. "They have their own fraternity. You just leave them alone and make adjustments and for the last two weeks we have. Believe me, some of those were fouls."

Brey said he knew Rutgers would be a tough opponent despite the records.

"It is just the ebb and flow of Big East play," he said. "I have not been happier about a win. You can kind of get into (a mindset) of what should happen because of the records, but Rutgers has tough kids and that's a group that beat us last year. They kept game pressure on and it was a hard game for us. We had to figure out how to get out of there. It was good for our group because we are going to be in a lot of these games the rest of the season."

Brey has pretty much let his five seniors play the bulk of the minutes recently.

"Today was a day for our old guys to win the game," he said. "We would make a mistake but they did not panic, they just moved onto the next play. We got the ball to the right guys at the foul line."

Notre Dame pulled away from a 7-7 tie with a 17-6 run that included five straight points and a nice assist by Hansbrough. The Irish stretched the lead to 25-15 before a 3-pointer by the Scarlet Knights' James Beatty started a 7-0 run and got Rutgers within 25-22.

Notre Dame led 37-33 at halftime with Hansbrough scoring 10 points.

The teams battled evenly in the second half before two free throws by Martin started an 8-2 run that made it 51-43 with 12:36 to play. Consecutive 3-pointers by Rutgers made it a two-point game before a layup by Hansbrough sparked an 11-2 run that gave the Irish a 62-51 lead.

Box score
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DeShone Kizer stays the same leader for new group of Notre Dame teammates

DeShone Kizer stays the same leader for new group of Notre Dame teammates

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A number of teammates took the field for the first time with DeShone Kizer during the cacophony of Sunday night’s atmosphere at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin. And much as Kizer did last year, he led the Irish offense with a certain kind of poise and mentality that deftly toes the line between confident and cocky. 

“When we were down by two touchdowns or when it was tied, he had the same demeanor,” sophomore receiver C.J. Sanders said. “That really speaks volumes about him as a man.”

Kizer wowed his teammates a year ago when he subbed in for the injured Malik Zaire and threw a game-winning touchdown to Will Fuller. It wasn’t just for the throw, but it was also for the way in which the quarterback conducted himself in a hostile, pressure-packed environment. 

Last year’s Irish offense, though, was loaded with leaders. Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin and Chris Brown were pillars on that team, and there were veterans all around like Fuller, C.J. Prosise, Steve Elmer and Amir Carlisle. 

Notre Dame only returned a handful of upperclassmen who played on that 2015 team in Kizer, Torii Hunter Jr., Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson (running back Tarean Folston was injured in Week 1 against Texas, and tight end Durham Smythe missed the remainder of the regular season after an injury in Week 2). 

So that meant there was quite a bit of inexperience permeating Notre Dame’s offense Sunday night. But some of those greenhorns said Kizer’s composure and confidence helped them ease into a roaringly-intense evening. 

“When we were down, he brought us together and said we’re going to drive and score and come back,” sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown said, adding that message from Kizer gave him and the rest of the Irish offense a confidence boost in the second half. 

“What young guys typically don’t understand when they go into that environment is that it’s not too much different from what you’re doing in practice,” Kizer said. “When you step in front of 100,000 people, there’s a lot of noise and that could definitely create some adrenaline. But other than that, we’re playing the same game that we’ve been playing all summer. 

“The plays have been made time and time again all offseason and just understanding that when they’re out there, they’re expected to make those same exact plays and all they have to do is do that and do that well. You don’t have to go out there and be someone else. We have a really good coaching staff who put you in good positions to make big plays and all you have to do is execute what they say.” 

Leadership is one of those nebulous things every football player and coach will tell you is necessary, but it’s a quality that’s impossible to quantify. It’s not an end-all, be-all for an offense or defense — Notre Dame, after all, didn’t score when it got the ball back after Jarron Jones’ miraculous blocked PAT, which probably had more to do with the loss of Hunter Jr. than anything else — but it is something that can be pointed to as an asset in close games. 

And with Kizer quarterbacking the offense, Notre Dame has to feel confident in its ability to hang in close games. It still needs its special teams, defense (which was primarily behind recent losses to Stanford and Texas) and coaching (behind the loss to Clemson) to come through, but the next time Notre Dame finds itself in a high-pressure, hostile situation, it can count on Kizer to keep things calm. 

And that counts for something, whatever the extent of it is. 

“Before the game he kind of talked to us, got in front of us and told us hey, I don’t care how young you are, I know you guys can make plays,” Sanders said. “So just hearing that from him developed a comfort level to know that he can depend on us. Hearing that from him really made a big difference.” 

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola didn't have the season they were hoping for in 2015-16 but they're optimistic that things can turn around for the upcoming season. Even though the Loyola roster is filled with newcomers, the Ramblers are hopeful that a summer trip to Spain can help give them a head start.

As part of the trip, Loyola will get 10 extra practices and four games against Spanish competition that will give the team some much-needed experience before practice officially begins in October.

Head coach Porter Moser is already happy about working with this group, which features some productive returnees and a lot of talented newcomers.

"We play four games over there. They get that feel of being coached in a game at this level with their teammates," Moser said. "So then when we start back up in October they have a sense of some of the things we're trying to teach, some of the things of what to expect. And I think that's such a big element."

On a team full of new players, it will be important for senior guard Milton Doyle to have a bounce-back year for Loyola after a disappointing junior campaign. A former star at Marshall, Doyle saw his shooting percentages dip last season as the Loyola coaching staff challenged him to improve for his final season of college basketball. 

Moser is happy with the strides that Doyle has made this summer as he's added over 10 pounds of muscle to now play at 192 pounds. Also committed on the defensive end of the floor and being a team leader, Doyle is the Ramblers' only senior this season, so he'll be counted on to be a productive presence.

"It's a lot this year just because we had four seniors leave last year and I'm the last senior," Doyle said. "So it's my job to make sure everyone stays on track and everyone is uplifted, even when coaches get on them. That's my job right now."

Junior wing Donte Ingram — a former Simeon product — and junior guard Ben Richardson also return as key contributors from last year's team while Iowa State transfer guard Clayton Custer is expected to come in and be a major factor in the team's backcourt rotation.

As for the newcomers, Moser compared juco transfer forward Aundre Jackson favorably to former Loyola forward Christian Thomas while Vlatko Granic gives the team a stretch option at forward that they didn't have in the past. The team's freshmen are also very talented as guard Matt Chastain has shown solid athleticism and a good basketball IQ through some early practices. 

Another freshman guard, Cameron Satterwhite, is coming off of a torn ACL that cost him his senior season, but the Loyola staff is optimistic about his recovery for this season. Croatian freshman guard Bruno Skokna is also recovering from injury as he has played against professionals in Europe the last few seasons on an amateur contract. He is expected to be cleared soon so that he can return to action this season.

"I love this group because it's a group full of gym rats. This is a really enthusiastic group," Moser said. "They've come together, we've got a lot of newcomers. That's the benefit, that's why we did the Spain trip this summer."

Loyola takes its trip to Spain from Aug. 12-22 as they'll hit cities like Barcelona and Madrid during the trip.